It is 73 years today that the Nigerian first ever-national football team left the shores of the country for a goodwill tour of the United Kingdom. The team aptly tagged the UK Tourists, left aboard the RMSS Apapa in Lagos en-route to Liverpool on this date, 16 August 1949.
The badge on the blazer worn by the Nigeria first national team when they sailed to the UK on this date 73 years ago
The NFA selected the team to travel after series of trial games among township teams. The lucky ones include Dan Anyiam, Tesilimi Balogun, Sam Ibiam, Skipper Etim Henshaw, Isaac Akioye and Isiaku Shittu.
The others were Ahmed Tijani Ottun, Olisa Chukwura, Okorokwo Kanu, Mesembe Otu, Peter Anieke, Titus Okere and Sam Ibiam. Also in the team were John Dankaro, Sokari Dokubo, Hope Lawson Edet Ebenezer and Godwin Anosike.
Sports Village Square can confirm that only one of the 18 players and other officials, is alive today.
He is Titus Okere, the initial suspect for the captainship of the team before it was given to Richard Etim Henshaw.
Okere, now 95 lives in Kent, 61 kilometres from London.
The only living member of the UK Tourists – 95 year old Titus Okere with his great great grandchildren in Kent, UK.
The chairman of the NFA, Captain Donald H. Holley, led the team comprising of 18 players. The players were dressed in grey trousers and olive green blazers with a badge emblazoned with the initials of NFA and with ‘United Kingdom 1949’ woven underneath.
Skipper Henshaw tends to Thunder Balogun’s feet at a training session on Everton FC ground
A large crowd that included the Bishop of Lagos and many important African and European personalities saw them off at the Apapa Port. There was also a message of support from the Governor-General, Sir John McPherson.
The players travelled third class for the two-week voyage. They had to run round the deck four times every morning to keep fit.
The saga of the team and the subsequent ‘Red Devils’ the ‘Green Eagles’ and the current ‘Super Eagles’ is captured in the landmark book, “Super Eagles @70…Soaring on the Wings“
Another book: “Tesilimi Thunder Balogun, captures the adventures of the team. Both books are available at Roving Heights outlets in Lagos and Abuja or by dispatch.