Nigeria: Seven Painful Deaths That Rocked Nigerian Sports in 2021


Nigerian sports lost quite some notable actors from football to badminton, and to weightlifting

The outgoing Year 2021 has been a torrid one, not just for sports, but for the country.

Though many ‘prophets’ predicted a better 2021 after the COVID-19 ravaged 2020, the reverse was the case.

There was an unimaginable surge in banditry and multiple breaches in the country’s security architecture; leading to the deaths of so many across all age categories.

Amid the chaos, some notable sporting figures also lost their lives, albeit majorly to different illnesses.

As PREMIUM TIMES takes a wrap on the year 2021, here are seven of the painful deaths that shook Nigerian sports in the outgoing year.

Joe Erico

The former Super Eagles goalkeeper died a few weeks into the new year in his sleep at 71.

He was survived by a wife and four children.

Erico, along with Shaibu Amodu and Stephen Keshi-all late, guided the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2002 World Cup jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan.

Unfortunately, the Nigeria Football Federation denied the trio the chance of leading the Eagles to the Mundial as they opted for Adegboye Onigbinde to lead Nigeria to that edition of the World Cup.

Yisa Shofoluwe

The death of the former Super Eagles defender came as a rude shock to many who never knew he was battling an illness.

The 53-year-old died in February 2021, after he was diagnosed with mild cerebral atrophy at the Prince and Life Medical Hospital, Ikorodu, Lagos.

He finally gave up the ghost at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, LUTH after his medical condition worsened.

Fondly referred to as the ‘Dean of Defense’, Sofoluwe had 40 appearances for the national team.

He was a member of the Eagles squads which reached the final of the 1984 and 1988 AFCON tournaments.

Barnabas Imenger

The former Super Eagles midfielder was the team manager of NPFL side, Lobi Stars, until his death.

Imenger died at the National Hospital in Abuja in March 2021 after several days at the Federal Medical Center, Makurdi, Benue State.

Imenger was part of the Super Eagles in the mid-90s and was part of the team that played at the 1995 FIFA Confederations Cup (King Fahd Cup) in Saudi Arabia.

He was the second-youngest member of that team at 19 years.

Bello Oyebanji

This was another sad case of a shining light cut short abruptly.

Oyebanji who was the head coach of Kwara State Badminton Team lost his life in a ghastly car accident along Oyo/Ogbomosho expressway in April.

The National para-badminton player was on his way to Lagos to get his visa ahead of an Olympic qualifier to prepare for the Tokyo Paralympics when he lost his life.

Among other accolades, Oyebanji won two bronze medals in the male’s singles SL3 and the double categories at the maiden International Africa Para-Badminton Championships in 2016 in Kampala, Uganda.

He was also a triple gold medallist at the African Para-Badminton Championships in 2018

Kashimawo Laloko

The former Technical Director of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) died in March at the Sacred Heart Catholic Hospital, Abeokuta at 76.

Outside of being vocal and critical on football issues, we knew the veteran coach for his invaluable contributions to the Pepsi Football Academy.

The Academy nurtured many football talents in Nigeria to stardom. This list includes Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingie, Soga Sambo, Elderson Echiejile, Joseph Akpala, Yinka Adedeji, amongst many others.

Laloko also had a stint as the national team coach of The Gambia

Adamu Ejo

The Head Coach of Nigeria’s beach soccer national team fondly referred to as the Super Sand Eagles, died in May.

He was undergoing treatment for diabetes before his death.

Adamu, before his death, achieved quite a lot with the country’s beach soccer team, including inspiring them to one Africa Beach Soccer Cup of Nations title in Durban, South Africa.