Forty three years after the grand finale of the Ramat Cup in Enugu, the battle of wits is still on. Paul Okoku, playing for Bolaji Oni Babes, Lagos was sent off by the referee. Charles Okonkwo starred for Enugu Black Rocks.
The Lagosians were humiliated 3-0 after Okoku’s exit and he insists that the red card, his first ever, was issued because apparently, the referee wanted to impress then old Anambra State governor, Jim Nwobodo.
Okonkwo disagrees with Okoku for trying to diminish the feat of Black Rocks, full of youthful stars who went ahead to prove their mettle as key members of Enugu Rangers, the Flying Eagles and Green Eagles respectively.
“I can’t even remember the guy (Okoku) being given a red card in that match. We were clearly the better side and beat them convincingly. We were good young players and we knew it,” Okonkwo, also known as Hurricane said.
Hurricane Charlie spared no words in dismissing Bolaji Oni Babes.” The Lagos Boys were full of ‘ Shakara’ and noise, like Stationery Stores… the usual shenanigans like Lagosians. But we were unperturbed and confident that we will beat them. And 90 percent of the Enugu team went on to play for Bricawaves and then ended up with Rangers.”
To show that Black Rocks were solid, Okonkwo added, “this our young side went on to beat Stationery Stores who would later represent Nigeria in the African Winners Cup the next year.”
Tarila Okoronwanta was already an Adebajo Babe in 1980 and had to be flown in from Lagos for the grand finale. He joined Raymond King, Chris Anigala, Tajudeen Disu, Samson Siasia, skipper Lawrence Akufie, John Ekpere,Odion Itohan, Segun and Femi Olukanni against the hosts.
Black Rocks were led by Benedict Ugwu, alias Surugede. They had players with funny nicknames. Charles Okoye chose Warrior. Kingsley Onye was Mature, Nzekwe stuck to Harass, one bore Dankuruba, another went for Nkpokiti. There was also Equaliser.
Christian Obi, Ejike Ekwueme, Ikechukwu Ofoje, Benjamin Okaro, Joe Oha, One Touch Aneke, Ofoma and Anibeze completed the list. Coaches Eto Amaechina and Obinwa handled he squad.
Okonkwo credited Amaechina with deciphering the body language of the Lagosians. ” Yes, Eto had their swag that’s why he actually understood what was going on.”
He was right. Amaechina, an Igbo, lived in Lagos all through the Civil War years managing Stationery Stores. While his contemporaries were fighting for Biafra, he was preparing to follow the Green Eagles to the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games. At the last minute, Nigerian officials dropped him.
Sparks of Ilorin lost to Bolaji Oni in one of the semi finals while Black Rocks defeated Kano in the other. Sparks captain, Alausa Ahmed ( Alasco) bagged a red card and team mate, Kayode Omotose feels it was undeserved and made it possible for the Lagosians to sail through.
Okonkwo agrees. “Infact, the team we feared was the team from Ilorin who were much better than the Lagos team. They were accidentally knocked out in the semi final. We watched that game and were praying for the Lagosians to win because we were very confident of beating them. Full of skillful players, they were the team to beat.”
Sparks paraded a great team. Their talisman was inside left, Alausa. Gafar Ijaya, Saliu Isiaka and Wahab Ahmed were quite outstanding. Keeper Abdulraheem Ajao, right back Bamidele Aturu, Sule Gegele, Lateef Yusuf and Omotose excelled as well.
However, Alausa was exceptional. Omotose described him as “a master dribbler with his wicked left leg. Great passer of the ball, he could locate any player at any part of the field. The red card depleted our capacity in the midfield.”
Alausa was an all rounder. In 1977, he led the Government Secondary School, Ilorin 4×100 metres Relay quartet that came out tops in Kwara State. The other three were Saliu Salami ( Abella ), Bolakale Magaji ( Black Lee ) and Segun Ajomale ( Shege).
That event was hitherto dominated by Ilorin Teachers College ( ITC ) and Federal Government College ( FGC ) Ilorin. It ended in 1977 and Alausa was the major reason for that achievement.
That same year, he led the school to the final of the Kwara State Secondary Schools Football Championships. Many expected Government Secondary School Ilorin to win as they had done four years earlier n the days of Frank Omenka, Taofeek Aziz, Victor Aniago, Steve Olarinoye and Frank Odiachi.
Alausa’s team mates included keeper Saka Balinga, Ikechukwu Aporo ( later Emosobum ), Segun Ajomale, Belgore Olarongbe, Saliu Salami, Kale Magaji, Bello Ibrahim ( Kapila ) and Muraina Ibrahim ( Brimo ). Others were Ajetunmobi Wahab and Gandu Andrew. Unfortunately, they lost 1 – 0 to Okene Teachers College.
Something to note about full back, Aporo who later changed name to Ikechukwu Emesobum. He was one of the five East Central State pupils that bagged scholarship in an Exchange Programme between Kwara State and the East which began in 1973.
The others, Chinaka Obasi, Udensi Okoli, Godwin Ikechukwu Abugu and Jonathan Chuks Nwosu moved to Government Secondary School, Ilorin with him while the best five pupils from Kwara were sent to College of Immaculate Conception ( CIC ) Enugu.
It was a worthy arrangement between Ajie Ukpabi Asika, Administrator of East Central State and Brig. David Bamigboye, Military Governor of Kwara State. Remarkably, both men had wives named Chinyere and they hailed from Owerri Zone.
Emesobum, an Engineer, later joined politics and became Abia State Commissioner for Sports. Obasi became an Architect and lives in the United States. Okoli joined the Nigerian Customs Service.
Abugu traveled to the Soviet Union for further studies. He died in the 2012 Dana air crash in Lagos. Nwosu, was studying Medicine at the University of Benin when he lost his life. Nwosu’s car broke down near the Ugbowo Campus gate of the University in 1982. As he stepped down to find out what went wrong, a luxury bus hit the vehicle. He was knocked down as a result.