Lobi Stars made a “covenant” to give their late coach, Solomon Ogbeide “a befitting burial” by winning the 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title or at the very least, earning a continental ticket at the Super Six, current head coach Evans Ogenyi has told busybuddiesng.com.
Ogbeide passed on reportedly as a result of complications from low blood pressure on the morning of Stars’ penultimate regular-season league game against Wikki Tourists on Monday, 20th May 2019.
Ogenyi said Ogbeide had expressed a strong desire to see Lobi Stars return to the continent in order to prove that their campaign last season when they became the first Nigerian team to play in the group stages of the CAF Champions League (CAFCL) in three years, wasn’t “a fluke”.
Fulfilling Ogbeide’s wish, Ogenyi said, is the driving force behind Stars’ participation in the Super Six and they started their campaign on a blistering note with a 3-1 win over FC Ifeanyiubah on Tuesday with Samad Kadiri scoring a brace and Sikiri Alimi also getting on the scoresheet.
“Yeah, it [Ogbeide’s death and picking ourselves up afterward] was so emotional, Ogenyi told busybuddiesng.com.
“But we have a covenant that we must go far in this championship; possibly picking one of the three slots in his memory so that we can give him a befitting burial with it because he kept telling us that if we do not go back to the continent or we don’t qualify for the Super Six and go back to the continent then what we did last year would be like a fluke.
“So, the emotion is there but then we want to do everything possible to see that we come tops or pick one of the continental tickets and give him a befitting burial.”
Ogbeide’s death had filtered through on social media just as Lobi Stars were about to take on Wikki Tourists in a game with huge implications for the playoff hopes. Ogenyi who had been with him earlier in the hospital said he saw nothing to warn him of Ogbeide’s impending demise and described the struggle he went through to keep the news from his players when he got wind of Ogbeide’s death just moments before kickoff.
“I don’t think so [that Ogbeide knew his time was near], he was assuring us that he would even come for the match when I left him in hospital,” Ogenyi said.
“He said that I should go and bring him the victory because they said that he should rest. But when my boys were warming up the news came to me that he passed on. I summoned courage to see that I stood on line, because that was the turning point, the day I was playing Wikki Tourists in Makurdi, a very difficult match, if we had not won that match, it would have been a different story. A very difficult match we won because the whole players broke down, we managed it because some persons started posting on Social Media, a lot of people called me asking if the news [of Ogbeide’s demise] was true.
“Some of our players that were not in the team heard it that day heard it and the news was going round so we had to quickly control those ones playing so that playing to see that they don’t even open their handsets, because it was so emotional, so devasting it came like a rude shock to all of us.
“That is why we are more committed to see that we [get win the title or earn a continental slot], because he is a father to all of us, he’s a mentor, a friend who gave his all, a motivator.”
Lobi Stars are in action against Enugu Rangers in the second round of fixtures in the Super Six playoffs at the Agege Stadium by 5 pm today.