Dean of Football Defense, Yisa Sofoluwe on Life Support at LUTH.

Reports from Lagos says Former Super Eagles defender, popularly called the Dean of Defense in his playing days, Yisa Sofoluwe is currently on life support at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

The Dean had been diagnosed for mild cerebral atrophy at the Prince and Life Medical Hospital, Ikorodu, Lagos, but was moved to LUTH on Friday after his medical condition became worse.

His compatriot, ex-international Waidi Akanni said that Sofoluwe was currently on oxygen and is battling to survive.

“He’s on oxygen as we speak and that’s between life and death. He has been transferred to LUTH for intensive care,”Akanni said.

“He needs adequate treatment to recover well. I’m calling on Nigerians to come to his aid.”

Sofoluwe born 28 December 1967 (age 53 years) had 40 caps and scored one goal for Nigeria and was a member of the Eagles squads which reached the final of the 1984 and 1988 AFCON tournaments.

He was fondly named Dean of Defense by ace Football Commentator, Earnest Okonkwo for his impressive control of the game from the left full back position.

Football pundits say he has been the best ever player Nigeria has produced for that position.

Two Nations Cup silver medals, two FA Cup trophies and two FA Cup silver medals were just some of the rich credentials this humble servant of Nigerian football has in his cabinet. Sofoluwe spoke with Jacob Ajom in a 2018 chat.

Excerpts: Your career in football: Tell us how it all started. I started when I played for a club called ITT. I was very young then. This was about 1981/82. I joined them from my area because the coach was living around our area, Ebute Metta.

The coach’s name was Cesi Asenna; he played for NEPA and played for Nigeria too. It was from there that I was invited to the Flying Eagles in 1983.

That time we were playing a league here in Lagos., LADFA League. From there they invited me to the Flying Eagles. After making the camp, our team (The Flying Eagles) travelled to Mexico in 1983. When we returned from Mexico, they invited about six players from the Flying Eagles to the Green Eagles.

Then we had coach Adegboye Onigbinde and James Peters. I was among the six picked and I played for the team in the 1984 Nations Cup and I played to the final where we emerged runners up.

Cameroon beat us 3-1. We had also Muda Lawal (late), Henry Nwosu, the only two members from the 1980 squad that won the trophy in Lagos.

Our team was very young as we had the likes of Chibuzor Ehilegbu, Paul Okoku and we did very well.

Yisa Sofoluwe In 1988 again we played to the final and lost again to Cameroon 1-0, a penalty.

After that, I also played for Abiola Babes, 1984, ’85, ’86, ’87. We played the National Challenge Cup, we won it twice and were runners up twice also. We won it 1984 and ’87, while ’85 and ’86 we were runners up.

I was in the national team that qualified Nigeria for the Seoul Olympics. But the engagement of Manfred Honner scuttled my going to the Olympics because he came and scattered the team.

So that was the last time I played for Nigeria. Best moment in your playing career? It was when I was playing in the national team and Abiola Babes. Then I had a lot of fans and everybody enjoyed my game and they wanted to see me play every time. That is the only time I enjoyed my game most.

Late ace broadcaster, Ernest Okonkwo called you Minister of defence. Why was he calling you that name?

It was in Morocco ’88 when I saw the man, we met at a hotel lobby. He just called me Yisa, please come. I went to him. He asked, “Do you know me?” I told hem no. And he said, “I am Ernest Okonkwo,” and I was shocked. The same Ernest Okonkwo that gave me the name ‘Defence Minister’?

I then asked why he gave me the name. He asked me, “don’t you know the way you play? It is because of the way you play. That is why I gave you the name. He told me it was the way I played in our match against Ghana in Kaduna the following day I saw in the papers and everybody began calling me that name. I was so happy but I didn’t allow that go into my head. I remained calm and humble and I always strived to put in my best every time I was called upon by the coaches to play either in the national team or Abiola Babes.

My happiness is that throughout my career, I never had any serious injury that kept me out of the game but my biggest regret was my brief sojourn in Belgium. I had a problem with my coach. But I am happy I am still alive today. You talked about Belgium, which club did you play for? RSC Namur. It is in the capital, like we had Super Stores in Lagos, everybody liked the club. The fans liked me very well. But I wanted to move on. The manager and the management of the club wanted to hold me down and never wanted me to leave. When I realised they didn’t want me to move forward, I had to return to Nigeria.

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