‘Mr Football’ – Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo dies at 86


“Mr Football” – Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo dies at 86

The first Nigerian member of the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Etubom Oyo Orok Oyo has died. He was 86 years old. Etubom Oyo passed on yesterday morning at his house at Ephraim Street in his hometown Calabar.

Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Federation, (NFF), Bolaji Ojo-Oba confirmed the death of the octogenarian who remains to date as the longest serving secretary general of the Nigerian Football Federation.

In a letter signed by the NFF scribe, the Federation stated: “We are beside ourselves with sorrow for the death of one man whose tremendous efforts at lifting Nigeria football in Africa and the world will never be forgotten.

“Without any gainsaying, Etubom Oyo was the father of modern Nigeria football, leaving indelible steps in the sands of time as Secretary General of the then Nigeria Football Association for 12 years (longest-serving) and as Member of the Confederation of African Football between 1974 –1998.

“Late Etubom Oyo’s pioneering efforts in world football administration paved the way for the new stars of today, and our hearts go out to the family of the departed doyen. The family must indeed be proud because Late Etubom Oyo was Nigeria’s first Executive Member of CAF and FIFA, and received the FIFA Order of Merit Award in Gold.”

Spokesman of the NFF, stated that a delegation from the NFF set out promptly for Calabar on receiving the news of the passage of the football icon and will commiserate with the widow and other Members of the Oyo family today.

Also CAF President Issa Hayatou has expressed his deep sadness over the death of the former CAF member. “Mr Oyo was a great visionary leader and also an encyclopedia of football, we will terribly miss him. ‘Mr Football’ as he was known locally and internationally, was a regular contributor in our meetings, with great ideas,” noted the CAF President. Hayatou described Oyo as: “Truly someone who dedicated his life to the service of football, locally and internationally.”

Oyo, who served in CAF between 1974 and 1998 when he retired as Honorary Member of the CAF Executive at the Africa Cup of Nations congress in Burkina Faso, was also Member of the FIFA Executive Committee.

Etubom Oyo was born on August 27, 1922, into an Efik Royal House. From 1927 to 1935, he attended Duke Town School, in Calabar; and from 1936 to 1938, he was in Duke Town Secondary School, also in Calabar. Between 1939 and 1941 Oyo was a student of Hope Waddell Training Institute-Calabar, the elite secondary school of colonial Nigeria. He left Hope Waddell Training Institute in December 1941 with a school certificate.

On August 6, 1942, three weeks to his 20th birthday, Oyo left Calabar by boat, embarking on a life “adventure” that was to last more than 40 years. From Calabar, he sailed to Oron; from Oron to Port Harcourt; and from Port Harcourt to Lagos. A week later, on August 13, 1942, Oyo Orok Oyo entered the Railway Traffic Training School, Lagos. On passing out in January 1943, Oyo was employed in the Railway Corporation between then and September 1960 when he resigned voluntarily.

Interesting as the life story of the man fondly called ‘Mr Football’ sounds, he did not start his round leather career as an administrator, but as a player. He played football in his primary and secondary school days; but he became known as a footballer, beyond Calabar, after he left school. He stopped playing football in 1949.

As an organiser and administrator of note, he became an encyclopedia on the game, making his view must read for both established and up coming football personalities, the world over.

‘Mr. Football’ wrote weekly column in the Punch newspaper between 1978 and about 1982 and in the Daily Champion thereafter, for some years. Earlier, in Sunny Ojeagbase’s Sports Souvenir, Etubom Oyo’s ‘As I was Saying…’ column made incisive pronouncement on topics many shied away from.

He was, at various times, since October 1, 1960, the Administrative Secretary of Nigerian Football Association (NFA); Assistant Secretary, National Sports Commission; General Secretary, NFA; elected member, Confederation of African Football (CAF); a member of NFA; a member of FIFA; and second Vice-President, FIFA. Between 1974 and 1994, he was re-elected, every four years, as Vice-President of CAF.

But since 1989, failing health matters, most especially his sight problems ensured that he could not remain active on football matters, even though he was still attending CAF congresses and events aided by his very supportive wife. Until his death yesterday Etubom Oyo was a life Vice-President of CAF.