The National Chairman of Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Rev. (Amb) SAMUEL IKPEA, in this exclusive interview with JAMIU ADEMOYE, Chief Executive Officer, Braodview Global Communication, a Lagos-based media outfit, spoke on the life and times of Muda LAWAL, 30 years after his death, the role of government at various levels in celebrating his death. Excerpt.
Sir, what is your take on the football career of the late Muda Lawal?
I must say with all honesty that the late Muda Lawal was a great football ambassador, an indigene of Ijaiye, Abeokuta in Ogun State.
Truth is that he was a fantastic midfielder Nigeria has ever had. He played for both Green Eagles and some club sides.
I recall that Lawal started his professional football career in 1975. He played for Shooting Stars Football Club in Ibadan, Oyo State, from 1975 to 1984 and then from 1985 to 1986
From 1987 to 1988, he played for Abiola Babes Football Club, before retuning again to Shooting Stars Football Club and played from 1989 to 1991.
What about his football career at the international stage?
Yes, Muda Lawal made his international debut in 1975 and won 86 caps, scored 12 goals for Nigeria. It is on record that the late football maestro is the only player in Africa that appeared five consecutive times in the Nation’s Cup Finals, from 1976 to 1984.
You will agree with me that Lawal guided Nigeria to its first African Nations Cup during the 1980 African Nations Cup. Thereafter, the team also competed during summer Olympics the same year.
He played his last international tournament match in August 18, 1985 when Nigeria played with Zambia in 1986 African Cup of Nations qualifier.
Muda Lawal Stadium, the first stadium in Ogun State, where a number of world class soccer stars have played football.
Apart from the peeling inscription ‘Muda Lawal Stadium’ inscribed on the wall with white paint nothing outwardly depicts that a stadium is sited at the location.
Going by the facilities at the stadium like the complex, audience stand, football pitch, running tracks, hockey pitch, basket ball court, boxing ring and handball pitch, the architecture masterpiece now battles its ruin and despair.
Formerly Asero Stadium renamed in 1992 after Nigeria’s late prolific midfielder, Mudashiru Lawal, who played with the likes of: Friday Expo, Ayinla Toyin, Raymond King, Yisa Shofoluwe, while with Abiola Babes Football Club in the 80s.
The stadium with an estimated capacity of 20,000 spectators, used to be filled with cheering fans of Lawal and other great footballers during matches.
Thirty years after the death of Muda Lawal, the government seems to have neglected him and his family. What are your views here?
It is unfortunate that government at the federal, state and local levels do not recognize and reward their heroes. When Muda Lawal died, government officials praised him to high heavens as a departing great footballer, who did the country proud at local, national and international football tournaments.
So, what is your advice to the government?
I am making a clarion call on government at various levels, football lovers, supporters and fans of the late footballer, relevant agencies and other stakeholders, to please give better appreciation and recognition to the worthy departed ambassador on his 30th Anniversary.
During my last visit to the burial site of Muda Lawal, I observed that the place has been over-taken by mechanics, who erected their workshops there, even as the entire surrounding looks unkempt.
My appeal is for government to always fulfill their promises to our players with good packages, whether the person is dead or alive.
In specific terms, what do you think the government should do to recognize and reward or compensate Muda Lawal and other outstanding sportsmen and women in Nigeria?
I want to first and foremost express my profound gratitude to the federal and state government for the recognition and reward extended to some sportsmen and women like Chioma Ajunwa, the first African black woman to win gold medal in field event.
Twenty five years after the promise, the Lagos State Government rewarded Ajunwa with a three bedroom flat. Others have also been recognized and rewarded recently by the government of the day. It is encouraging.
But, I think in all honesty, the family of Muda Lawal should also be recognized, rewarded, while Asero Stadium named after Muda Lawal and his burial site should be given a facelift.
Muda Lawal, who was honoured Member of the Order of Niger, MON, was a football colossus and former captain of Green Eagles
He scored one of the three goals that led to Nigeria winning the first African Cup of Nations in 1980.
The late footballer had also been a dominant presence with IICC Shooting Stars Football Club that won Nigeria’s first Continental Club, tagged the Winners Cup in 1976.
After his death, Ogun State Government named Asero Stadium after him at a time there was Mecca for football clubs in the State.
Today, Muda Lawal Stadium wears the look of a war-ravaged facility, the chairs tatters, pitch overgrown with grasses. It is indeed sad.
What is your suggestion to government at this 30th remembrance of the great soccer legend, Muda Lawal?
Thank you. I want to use this medium to revive to lost glory of the great soccer ambassador. This posthumous award from the Nigeria Football Supporters Club is to mark the month Lawal died after his contributions to the development of football in Nigeria.
The elaborate celebrations will be done by October this year, God’s willing in conjunction with Braodview Global Communication, a media outfit.
I want to use this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the Balogun of Ijaiye Kingdom, Aare Ona Kakanfo of Egbaland, High Chief Ganiyu Babayeju, and other Council-of-Chiefs for their supports and cooperation. May his reign continue to be peaceful and bring more fortunes to the entire kingdom.