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Samuel Okwaraji

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Did You Know? The Late Nigerian Footballer, Samuel Okwaraji Was A Trained And Qualified Lawyer

To some, Samuel Okwaraji would be an unfamiliar name, especially if you were born in the 90’s or have no interest in football. Yet to others, Samuel Okwaraji’s name is one that brings memories of a hero, a patriot and a football star.  It is a name fondly remembered by the manner of his death while playing football for his country Nigeria.

While that is noteworthy, there is actually a remarkable aspect of Samuel Okwaraji’s life that most people are ignorant of; His extensive training and qualification as a Lawyer.

Samuel Okwaraji: Master in the Boots, Master of the Books

Although Samuel Okwaraji was a footballer of remarkable talent and worthy repute, there was more to him than footballing skills. Samuel Okwaraji was a well trained lawyer; His Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees were both in law. As a matter of fact, he had a Masters’ Degree in International Law from the University of Rome. It is even stated in some cycles that Samuel Okwaraji was a PhD student at the time of his demise.[1]

This is an astonishing fact especially with the fact that many athletes and sportsmen at this side of the divide hardly have the desire to further their education after turning professional. Samuel Okwaraji’s legacy and heroics without a doubt transcended just football; it went into the spheres of unparalleled passion for education and the ability to combine football and education at the highest level. I wonder if any other Nigerian Athlete or Sportsman has borrowed a leaf from the late Samuel Okwaraji, to vigorously pursuing both sports and education to the highest possible level.

Other Interesting Things to Know About Samuel Okwaraji

  • Samuel Okwaraji was in the very first set of Students to attend Federal Government College, Orlu, Imo State.
  • He could speak at least five languages: His native Igbo, English, German, Italian and Spanish. Some of these languages were enabled by the fact that his footballing career spanned through some of these countries.
  • Given the opportunity to practice law or play football, Samuel Okwaraji chose football instead because he was of the opinion football was the better option for him. He believed the football pitch was where he belonged. If he had to choose between two benches, he would rather sit on the football bench than the court bench.
  • The University in which Samuel Okwaraji studied law, Sapienza-Universita di Roma (Sapienza University of Rome) was (and is) the largest European University by enrollment (supporting over 115,000 students, including 5,500 international students and almost 4000 academic staff).[2] It is also regularly ranked amongst the best universities in Italy and remains amongst the top 3% Universities in the World. It is Rome’s oldest University.
  • At one time, the Nigerian Football Association requested for Samuel Okwaraji’s release from his club so he could come represent Nigeria in a match. The club refused on the basis that the NFA would have to pay a sum of 45,000 dollars in gating fees which they would lose if Samuel Okwaraji did not play for them. In order to broker a deal, the NFA chairman then, Grp.Capt. John Obakpolor agreed to pay 15,000 dollars.
  • Samuel Okwaraji’s love and patriotism for Nigeria was further revealed by his remarks to his club manager when he heard about the incidence. Samuel Okwaraji was quoted as saying:

“I am a lawyer and you know I signed to play football for certain conditions, but I don’t think it included reselling my services to my country. You or your club cannot stop me from playing for my country. Let me tell you, I am going to represent my country whether you like it or not.”

  • Contrary to the myth that Samuel Okwaraji died playing in the famous India versus Nigeria match, (that 99-0 match that the ball turns into a lion because of the ‘hotness of the shots’ and the ‘indian jazz’). Samuel Okwaraji actually died in the 77th minute of a world cup qualification match against Angola at the Lagos National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos State on 12th August 1989.


[1] Aderonke Bello, Okwaraji: Combining Education with Football. Accessed 1st November 2018.

[2] accessed 1st November, 2018.

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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