Today, 27 August, 2022, my superhero of the 70/80s is 70 years old. Born and bred in Lagos Island, and later Mainland, it is impossible not to love playing football, or any round flighty object subject to being kicked about. We spent our spare and unmonitored moments to imitate great players we merely caught glimpses of in decaying paper cuttings – Pele, Banks, Best, Stefano, Seeler, Puskas, Charlton, Cryuff, etc.
By the time the 2nd All African Games of 1973 came around…staged beside us in Surulere, beating all comers to take the gold; and the 1976 Nations Cup in Ethiopia where we came third, we had already fastenned our local superheroes in our tiny hearts: Sunday Oyarekhua, Dombraye, Olayombo, Joe Eriko, Muda Lawal, Haruna Ilereka (from my most cherished local club, Stationery Stores), Chairman Chukwu, Kunle Awesu, Emma Okala, Alloysius Atuegbu, Godwin Odiye, Thompson Usiyen, Idowu Otubusin, etc.
By 1978, in Ghana, out came our tournament top scorer, and the authentic soccer superhero who made us swoon as kids in the neighborhood, leading most of us to fall in love with his position and shirt number… but hardly a tenth of his skills. Of course, he is the shooting star re-named “Mathematical” by the inimitable master sports commentator, Ernest Okonkwo (late).
Patrick Olusegun Odegbami combined football mastery, mesmerising artistry, with intellection fuelled by tertiary education – when it was not fashionable amongst our prime athletes – gift of the garb in articulating thoughts and ideas, and a restless bohemian thirst for innovation, collaboration and enterprise.
We salute the linchpin of Nigeria’s deadly attack formation at the 1980 Nations Cup which we hosted and won, and he had the added pleasure of being the highest goal scorer! For giving us immeasurable joy and bragging rights all over our adolescent years and youthful fantasies… long may you soar in good health and boundless fulfilment.
Happy 70th birthday, Big Seg… Congratulations, Uncle Ṣẹgẹ!