BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Sports Writers in Cross River are mourning with lamentations over the sudden death of one of the icons of goalkeeping in Nigeria, late Joseph Effiong otherwise known as ‘Joe Erico’ in the annals of sports nay football in the country.
Various sentiments and emotions expressed by the journalists were conveyed in a commiseration message sent to the Lagos – based bereaved family by the state chapter of the Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN).
The message jointly endorsed by the state chairman Comrade Albert Andinam and the Assistant secretary Essien Ita and made available to some newsmen in Calabar at weekend described the loss as that of Cross River which he hailed from and the teeming supporters of the famous Stationery Stores Football Club of Lagos where he rose to stardom to be a renowned goalkeeper for the then Green Eagles of Nigeria .
According to the contents of the condolence, the state chapter recalled that the late ‘Erico’ remained solo to constantly remind the sporting world that he serves as a reference point after the demise of the legendary Hogan Bassey each time Cross River is to be remembered as having produced outstanding heroes in sports aside from those who had earlier passed on.
The State chapter of SWAN bemoaned the sad loss as it recalled that the deceased who hails from Creek Town in Odukpani area of Cross River, became the first national goalkeeper to be in between the sticks when Green Eagles in 1976 at Dire-Dawa, Ethiopia first won Bronze medal during the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) for Nigeria to signal its arrival in the continental scene.
Thereafter, the then safest hands transformed into a coach of repute for the late Isreal Adebajo owned Stationary Stores FC of Lagos among others and got a national call up with the late Stephen Keshi to tinker Super Eagles to the global level in the year 2002 which was however questionably short-lived.
In a related development, the state SWAN also extended a similar message to the bereaved family, the government and people of Akwa Ibom on the death of the former Chief of Air Staff, Air-Marshall Nsikak Eduok who passed on late last year.
The body restated that its relationship with late Air Chief while he was in active service and later during retirement confirmed that he was indeed a sports lover who appreciated the development of youths and humanity through sports.
These Attributes, SWAN referred to the positive contributions of the Akwa Ibom born military icon through his investments in sound body and mental building facilities he provided in both public and private structures provided by him nation wide.
Much under reference was his innovation of the maiden edition of the Hogan Bassey Memorial Boxing Tournament with the expectation of discovering more talents to replace the late legend in the Akwa-Cross region of the Niger Delta which the first edition held in the African Club Hall, Calabar but could not be sustained due to dearth of subsequent sponsorship.