By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday felicitated Emmanuel Okala, the goaltender of the defunct national football squad, the Green Eagles, on his 71st birthday, which comes up on Tuesday.
The Green Eagles metamorphosed into the Super Eagles in 1994.
In a congratulatory message by his spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, the president rejoiced with the sportsman who earned global recognition and awards for his prowess in the field of play.
The president joined Okala’s family, team mates, fans and professional colleagues in celebrating the auspicious occasion.
He stated that Okala’s anniversary brought back memories of his patriotism on and off the football pitch in the 1970s and 1980s.
Okala was one of the heroes of Nigeria’s winning squad of the 1980 African Cup of Nations cup and member of the 1977 Africa Cup Winners’ Cup champion, the Rangers International FC.
He made history as the first goalkeeper in the history of African football to be crowned Africa’s Player of the Year by the African Sports Journalists Union in 1975.
Okala was also part of the team that won the All-Africa Games Football gold in Lagos in 1973, also taking bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations competition in 1978.
The president extolled Okala’s contributions to the development of sports in Nigeria and for remaining a light and inspiration to many young Nigerians.
Buhari also prayed for the wellbeing of Okala and his family.
Okala, who was Nigeria’s goaltender from 1972 to 1980, was born at Onitsha, Anambra, on May 17 1951.