Tributes flood in after Kelechi Emeteole dies in India
Tributes have been paid by teammates and the Nigeria Football Federation to former Nigeria defender Kelechi Emeteole who died at the age of 66 in India on Wednesday after a long battle with throat cancer.
The former Enugu Rangers player, who got help from some Nigerians including Super Eagles defender Kenneth Omeruo, travelled to India recently for surgery believed to have cost $11,000.
But Emeteole passed away in the early hours of Wednesday while receiving treatment, plunging the football family into shock and grief.
The NFF General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, who confirmed the former Heartland and Enyimba manager’s passing, said the federation was shocked by the development.
“Our hearts go out to his caring family that he has now left: his doting wife and children as well as relations. We pray that they will have the fortitude to bear the loss. We also pray that the soul of the departed finds eternal rest. Nigerian football will miss him dearly,” Sanusi said.
Sports minister Solomon Dalung expressed his shock and dismay over the development.
“When we were still grappling with the reality of Lizzy Onyenwenwa’s death, we have lost another sports icon who was dear to many Nigerians,” Dalung said in a statement by his media adviser Nneka Anibeze.
“This is one death too many, but who are we to question God? All we can do as humans is to mourn the departed and accept the inevitability of death.”
Emeteole’s Rangers and Super Eagles’ teammates Emmanuel Okala, Adokiye Amiesimaka and Joseph Aniedobe said they would miss the former Flying Eagles assistant coach popularly called Caterpillar.
“It is sad that we are losing those who built the foundation of Nigerian football in quick succession,” 1980 Africa Cup of Nations winner Okala was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying.
“It is a black day and we will miss Emeteole for a long time, I pray that God consoles his family.
“I want to also call the attention of the public to the plight of Christian Madu, another fine player, who has been sick.”
Amiesimaka recalled Emeteole’s playing days in the national team and described him as “a good player and gentleman”.
“We were colleagues in the national team. A fine gentleman and player, I will surely miss him. Honestly I lack words to mourn him,’’ he said.
The deceased’s ex-teammate at defunct Textile Mill of Aba and Rangers Aniedobe said, “I find it difficult to believe Kelechi is dead. We have been friends since 1972 when I convinced him to join us in Textile Mill.
“We were together in the same house for about a year before we moved to Rangers.
“Emeteole was a good man, it is indeed a sad development, just when we are recovering from the death of Luke Okpala, Earnest Ufele and Kenneth Ilodigwe.”
Emeteole was in the squad that helped Nigeria place third at the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations in Ethiopia.
Haruna Ilerika, Christian Chukwu, Joe Erico, Muda Lawal, Idowu Otubusin, Thompson Usiyan, Samuel Ojebode, Ogidi Ibeabuchi, Godwin Odiye, Kadiri Ikhana, Kenneth Olayombo, Sunday Oyarekhua and Aloysius Atuegbu were also in the squad. Punch