Fwd: SPORTS FLAKES. THE NEXT EDITION. FRIDAY V victoria ibanga to me, chinwe 6 hours agoDetails Pls publish. > > SPORTS FLAKES : OKALA : CONQUEROR AND EMPEROR OF CAMEROUN Byline: Emeka Obasi Category: SPORTS Picture: Emeka Obasi > > Camerounians will live to remember Emmanuel Anthony Oguejiofo Okala as one goalkeeper that made them cry severally and remained shoulders above their soccer teams. Only once did the legend lose to Cameroun and it was after full and extra time. Before that stain, he tormented the Indomitable Lions in Yaoundé, stopped Canon Sportif in Lagos and dismissed Tonnerre Kalara in Calabar. > > Okala's first encounter with the Indomitable Lions was in a 1974 Yaoundé friendly. The Green Eagles defeated their hosts 1-0. Other members of the Nigerian squad included Harrison Mecha, Nathaniel Adewale, Christian Chukwu, Idowu Otubusin, Musa, Philip Boamah, Kenneth Olayombo and Mohammed Lawal. The rest were John Nwadioha, Haruna Ilerika and substitutes, Mike Okotie, Jossy Dombraye and Yakubu Mambo. > > The Camerounian strike force of Roger Milla, Eugene Ekoule, Djombi, and Ama found it most difficult to put the ball past Okala. Even when Doumbe Leah, Bahoken and Machongo joined the attack from the rear, the Nigerian keeper was unbeatable. The introduction of Gregoire Arantes Mbida made no difference. The only goal conceded was by Keeper Mballa. > > At the Algiers '78 All Africa Games, the Lions were in the same Group B with Eagles. Okala was in goal again and the Camerounians needed a win to qualify for the semi-finals. They remembered that Nigeria were defending champions and Okala was in the team that won gold at the Lagos '73 All Africa Games. The game ended goalless. Nigeria later advanced to the grand finale losing narrowly to hosts Algeria. > > The 1978 encounter came a year after Okala had turned Camerounians into day dreamers. On April 16, 1977, the first international match at the new Calabar Stadium was between Tonnerre Kalara of Yaoundé and Enugu Rangers. Tonnerre had won the first Africa Winners Cup in 1975 but lost it to Shooting Stars, Ibadan in 1976. They came with Roger Milla. The Flying Antelopes gave them a 5-1 drubbing as Okala's face seemed to put Milla in a deep blue funk. > > Later in the year, another Yaoundé side, Canon Sportif, confronted Rangers in the finals of the third Africa Winners Cup. That was the top club in Cameroun at the time and had won the Africa Cup for Champion Clubs [today's CAF Champions' League] in 1971. > > The first leg was decided in Lagos. Rangers were merciless, trouncing the visitors 4-1. Their goalkeeper was Thomas Nkono. He was forced to visit the net so often as his defence succumbed to the fire power of the Flying Antelopes. With Sam Onyeaka, Nwachukwu Onyekwelu, Chimezie Ngadi, Aloy Atuegbu and Emma Merenini in top shape, Okala had little to worry about. > > The return leg at the Stade Omnisport, Yaoundé was billed for December 4, 1977. Canon were so sure the first leg advantage would be erased. After all, they were not Tonnerre who could not cancel the same margin when they fell to Shooting Stars in 1976. Canon meant firepower, yes, it was 'Canon Kpakum'.They apparently did not know that Rangers had many ex -Biafran soldiers. Coach Godwin Achebe, the 'Ide' himself was even an Instructor at the Biafran School of Infantry. > > Canon started well and were leading with a goal when the referee called off the match. There was down pour, the field was turning into a swimming pool. The fans were not happy that the rain gave the visitors a breather. The match officials knew that if they allowed the game to continue, it could only pass for a water polo match. Both teams were asked to come back in 24 hours. > > The hosts still bubbled with confidence. Canon had scored 18 goals in six matches on the way to the finals. They gained a walk over against Red Star of Congo in the first round. Rangers had played eight games and could boast of nine goals. Canon did not score less than two goals in Yaoundé. They defeated SC Bissau 7-1, silenced Kadiogo 4-1 and hit El Itihad 2-0. > > Achebe stuck to his formation of Okala in goal with Charles Adimora, Nnamdi Anyafo, Vincent Chika, Christian Chukwu and Ignatius Ilechukwu as defenders. In the mid field, he opted for Aloy Atuegbu, Christian Madu and Ogidi Ibeabuchi. Sam Onyeaka and Nwachukwu Onyekwelu were attacking. Francis Nwosu later came in for Chika while Emma Merenini replaced Onyeaka. > > Canon , founded, in 1930 were 40 years older than Rangers. The opposition could not escape defeat, so the Camerounians thought. Onyekwelu had scored in the Lagos first leg. Known as 'Igariga' he was huge and powerful. While the hosts were settling down, the bulky attacker fired a shot from close to the center circle. Nkono did not see it. He heard his net shake. Canon got one goal too. > > Then it became tough. Okala refused to be beaten. Mbida tried his best. Jeane Manga Onguene put in everything. The goals were denied by the giant between the Flying Antelopes' post. Theophile Abega, the 'Doctor' could not sedate Okala. They found him a hard nut to crack. Yaoundé fans thought there must be something about the Nigerian keeper. The match ended 1-1, Rangers lifted the Cup. > > Canon could not bear that loss. They claimed that Rangers would not have won if there was no Okala. It became a big issue. Cameounians swore that Okala was a Camerounian who chose to play in Nigeria and they were ready to bring him back to their country to man the posts.. > > Blaming them was not the best way out. There are Okalas in Cameroun. The first Foreign Minister of Independent Cameroun was Charles Rene-Guy Okala. He was Ahmadu Ahidjo's man and best remembered as the man who stood up at the United Nations in 1961 to speak against British Northern Cameroun [Adamawa Province] joining Nigeria. Like Emma Okala, Charles Okala was a Roman Catholic. > > His daughter, Nicole Okala Bilai, is the first Camerounian woman to lead a political party and she is today, a Senator. The lady has gone round jobs, from acting to modeling. Like Emma Okala , she was born in May. > > Okala is also the name of a town in Cameroun. It is in the Centre Region. One of their famous footballers, Elie Onana Eloundou was born there. There was also President of that country's Table Tennis Federation, a man known as D. Okala. Many were convinced that the man who punished Canon was indeed one of them, the defeat was that painful. > > Okala returned to Yaoundé with Rangers in 1978. It was the semi finals of the prestige Africa Cup of Champion Clubs and foes were Canon. It ended goalless in the Lagos first leg. In Yaoundé there was heavy rain again but the referee refused to stop the match, another barren draw. Both teams went into penalty kicks. Canon won 6-5. That was the only time the Camerounians enjoyed a better hand. > > With Okala out of the way, Canon were unstoppable. They won the CAF Champions League in 1978, lifted the Africa Winners Cup in 1979 and grabbed the CAF Champions League again in 1980. > > Okala must have had a good laugh. One of his younger brothers is Charles, but did not last long in soccer as a goalie. Patrick was going to step into his brother's shoes. He played in the grand finale of the Cote D'Ivoire '84 Africa Nations Cup. Nigeria lost 3-1 to Cameroun. At last Milla and Abega had beaten Okala but not Emmanuel. In 1988 and again in 2000, the Indomitable Lions defeated Eagles to win the Nations Cup. > > Emma Okala put Cameroun in his gloves all through his playing career. He was voted African Footballer of the Year by African Sports Journalists Union in 1978. Okala conquered Cameroun. When he quit, Nkono heaved a whiff of fresh air and attended three World Cups.
Emeka Obasi

Segun Odegbami was highly inflammable in African soccer circles and was regarded as the most dangerous attacker in cleats. Nnamdi Anyafo remained unknown until fate exposed him to the one Ernest Okonkwo renamed Mathematical.The year was 1977.

Shooting Stars were defending the African Winners Cup. Rangers International romped into the semifinal and had the Ibadan team to contend with. Two powerful Nigerian clubs, one had to go.

It went beyond soccer. Some called it the Okoro/Ngbati War. Tension was high. Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, a Civil War commander, sensed danger early enough.

The first leg was decided in Lagos. Shooting were supposed to be the home team. The National Stadium welcomed a mammoth crowd. All eyes were on Odegbami. The belief was that Rangers’ Central defence of Christian Chukwu and Ignatius Ilechukwu was in trouble.

Nnamdi Anyafo was not a popular name. He manned the left full back position. I doubt if Mathematical even knew him. From grass, the defender rose to grace. Odegbami was marked out of the game. Ace commentator Ernest Okonkwo quickly found a name for the dark horse, Policeman.

The first game ended goalless. The second leg was moved to Kaduna which became Rangers home ground, just for that game. It was for security reasons. Referee Gebreyesus Tesfaye of Ethiopia was there again. It ended barren. The Flying Antelopes relied on 4-2 penalties to excel.

Rangers dethroned Shooting Stars and advanced to win the African Winners Cup. That was in 1977. Anyafo became a hero and was invited to the Green Eagles camp.

I had long declared Anyafo wanted until I stumbled on Obi Anyafo. That was on October 22, 2021.

‘Sorry, are you in anyway close to the great Nnamdi Anyafo? I am not a policeman but I want to get him arrested for a big chat’, I queried. I was lucky.

The responder said: “You have reached the real policeman but you can’t arrest him yet. He will like to turn himself in after lunch.”

And that was it. The man had a nickname, Waskey, when he led Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) Onitsha to win the East Central State (ECS) Secondary Schools Cup in 1975.

We talked about the Rangers/ Shooting epic and Anyafo told me how he kept the great Odegbami out of the big show.

Anyafo said : ” Before that epic match, I had watched Segun play against a couple of defenders at the National Stadium. I noticed that he had a way of making one patented move all the time.”

I waited for more as the erstwhile defender proved to be a damn good investigator before Ernest Okonkwo made him a cop.

“Odegbami usually took right and veered left on a consistent basis. So I knew that if I did not fall for that, he would have a rough outing.

“It did help that I had Chukwu and Ilechukwu covering, whenever I found myself out of position because I was running after Odegbami. He got frustrated and that really took him out of his game”, Anyafo added.

It sounds easy to eulogise Anyafo for his heroics. The man had once given up on soccer. Fate it was that brought him back to the game.

“My soccer journey was just a fluke. I am not sure people knew exactly how it began. I captained East Central State Academicals to the Lagos ’75 Second National Sports Festival. Unfortunately, I was injured in the second game against Kwara State.

“We ended up not making it to the final and I thought that was the end of my football journey. So I went home and completed my assignment to teach at Ogidi Girls since I had my HSC.”

Enugu Rangers players were involved in a crash near Ijebu Ode on the Benin- Shagamu Highway. Left back, Chukwuma ‘Newman’ Onyeaghala lost his life. Two others defenders, John Azinge and Chike Ikebuaku were injured with goalie John Uwanaka.

“As fate would have it, I was sitting in the village one evening, talking with my dad about teaching at Ogidi Girls. Rangers Team Manager pulled up inside our compound. He said there was an accident and a couple of defenders were injured.

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“The dead and injured had been registered for the next continental competition and Rangers needed replacements as soon as possible. He said I was a good candidate and there was no time to spare as we had to hit Lagos that night so that they could get a passport and register me. The rest, like they say, is history, ” Anyafo said.

His international debut for the Flying Antelopes was not wonderful. “The worst game I can recall was against Green Buffaloes of Zambia in Lusaka. We lost 3-1. I came in for Paulinus ‘Sam Opone’ Ezike. We beat them 3-0 in the return leg.”

That was in the 1976 quarter final of the Africa Cup for Champion Clubs. Anyafo’s most memorable was against Canon Sportif in Yaounde in the final of the 1977 African Winners Cup.

Anyafo did not enjoy his stay in the Eagles camp. He was at the Ghana ’78 African Nations Cup and did not get enough playing time. In August 1978, he left for the US.

“It was not a pleasant experience, to say the least. I saw the nepotism in NFA and just decided there and then that soccer was not for me. I chose education. You were always reminded by the coaches that they couldn’t play all Rangers players in defence all the time”

The nickname Waskey followed him from St. John’s Alor where he sat for his School Certificate examination before moving to DMGS for Higher School.

Anyafo would not forget the semifinals of the ECS Schools Cup against Eziama High School, Aba. “It was our toughest game. Those boys were ball players and well coached. We were lucky to get by them before cruising against Holy Ghost College in the final.”

DMGS had a solid squad of stars like Nwachukwu ‘Igariga’ Onyekwelu, Vincent ‘Macbeth’ Chika, Mike ‘Ochiwar’ Ochiagha, Clement ‘ Arugo Style’ Nwuba and Ononye ‘Hercules’ Obiekwe.

Today Anyafo is a Chartered Accountant. Its American equivalent is CPA certificate. He holds a first degree from A and M University, Huntsville, Alabama and an MBA from Texas Southern University.

His two sons attended University on football scholarship. Anyafo runs his business in Charlotte, North Carolina.