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

Godwin Achebe got lucky in 1959 when leadership fell on his shoulders as Captain of the Nigerian National soccer team, then known as Red Devils. Substantive skipper, Dan Anyiam, was ruled out of the game because he was considered above amateur status. Vice captain, David Okoroji, was down with injury.
That was how Achebe, a teenager, led his country into battle against Black Stars of Ghana in a Tokyo ’60 Olympic qualifier decided at the Liberty Stadium Ibadan. The hosts won 3-1. His debut was in 1958 and foes were the Black Stars.
Luke Okpala who became popular with the nickname Bukana or Jazz Bukana was at the time a student of Notre Damme ( later Abatete High) School. Achebe played for Lagos Railways. By 1965, Okpala and Achebe shone with Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN).
I met Bukana at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu in 1997 and he was a sad man, eyes filled with tears. It was unusual for a Biafran veteran to break down. This one was in public. This disturbed me for we chatted freely seven years earlier, in the same town.
” If you see Achebe, you’ll have mercy on him,” Okpala told me . “Although he is now Deputy Director of Sports in Anambra State, things are not easy with him.” Bukana was Secretary of the Anambra Football Association but was in Enugu to watch Rangers.
” Do you know that once he came to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium to watch Rangers and was turned back at the gate. Our first captain who also rose to coach Rangers. Since then he has withdrawn to Anambra,” Okpala said.
Achebe was the first Nigerian coach to win a continental soccer trophy when he led the Flying Antelopes to African Winners Cup triumph in 1977.  He took the Coal City team to National League glory at the end of the same season.
Achebe was non playing captain when the Green Eagles won gold at the Lagos ’73 All Africa Games. He was a member of the first Eagles team to play at the African Nations Cup, Ghana ’63. Also in that team captained by Asuquo Ekpe, were Chukwuma Igweonu, Shedrach Ajaero, Dejo Fayemi and Emmanuel Omiunu, among others.
Achebe and Okpala won the Challenge Cup in 1965 with ECN. That was the team of Cyril Okosieme, Paul Hamilton, Fred Achebe, Rigogo Inua, Lawrence Omeokachie, Ernest Ufele, Sebastine Brodericks, Austin Oduah and Mohammed Lawal. In 1967, war broke out and they joined the Biafran Army.
At the end of the war, Okpala and Achebe became pioneer members of Enugu Rangers.They won the Amachree Cup together in 1971 and represented Nigeria in the African Cup for Champion Clubs ( today’s CAF Champions League).
Achebe was capped 48 times by Nigeria between 1958 and 1973, scoring three goals all through that career. The man who was denied access to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium had a stadium named after him in Fegge, Onitsha when he died in 2007.
Okpala left St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Onitsha in 1957. He was captain of Notre Dame soccer team before he passed out in 1963. While there, he also played for the Nigerian Academicals between 1961 and 1963.
Some of his contemporaries included Johnny Egbuonu, Mike Nwokedi, Edward Akika, Umpire Kanu and Lateef Gomez. Egbuonu and Nwokedi played for the Green Eagles’ right from Zixton Grammar School, Ozubulu in 1961.
Bukana’s Eagles debut came in 1964 in Santa Isabel (Malabo), Equatorial Guinea. The Nigerians graced that country’s anniversary and gave their hosts a thorough drubbing. That was also the year he joined the Lagos Electricians.
Okpala joined ECN from Onitsha Red Devils and besides Achebe, two other stars with Onitsha background welcomed him. Hamilton and Brodericks spoke perfect Igbo having played for Ikpeazu Redoubtables, owned by Justice Chuba Ikpeazu.
In 1973, East Central State soccer team, Spartans won gold at the First National Sports Festival in Lagos. Okpala was one of the gold medalists. He left Nigeria after that for a coaching course in Toronto, Canada.
As a coach, Bukana did well. From Anambra State Academicals, he handled Vasco Da Gama, PRODA, Enugu Black Rocks, CCB and led the YSFON team to Denmark and Scotland. One prominent name that came out of CCB is Jay Jay Okocha.
As a left full back, Okpala was seen as a hard nut to crack. He agreed but insisted that it was tactical. ” I went for the ball always, not the leg and I can’t remember bagging a red card in my career.”
He named his worst game : ” I can’t forget the 2-1 loss to WNDC Shooting Stars, in the grand finale of the Challenge Cup in 1971. That was a match we were supposed to win.” Captain Godwin Achebe’s penalty was saved by keeper Amusa Adisa.
Okpala got married to Nnenna who worked at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. They produced three children, Adam, Chikezie, boys and Chioma, a girl. They are all grown up now and soccer has not departed from the family.
In 2002, Chioma found love in Ikem Udeh, an ex- player of Udoji United and Super Eagles. Both live in  Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. Udeh is also known as ‘Potential Ayaya.
Their son, Michael Jay Chijioke Udeh, is one of the stars of the University of South Carolina, Aiken soccer squad. Dad also played for Alabama A and M University. The Udehs are close to Rangers Grand Patron, Chief Benson Ejindu who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Luke ‘ Jazz Bukana’ Okpala joined his ancestors on September 19, 2014. He was born on  August 10, 1941.