Colleagues of John Okon, who died on March 15 at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, have expressed shock over his sudden death, saying it was unexpected and shocking.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) announced the passing away of the ex-international via its official twitter-handle.
NFF twitter-handle read on March 14 : “Former Nigerian international player, John Ene Okon, 47, has passed on.’’
Ex-international Mutiu Adepoju, who played alongside Okon in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Senegal ’92, described his death as an unfortunate incident.
“It is so unfortunate to lose him at this crucial period. I was told he had a liver problem without much help.
“He was a dedicated and faithful player during his playing days while we played together. He came very early to training.
“He was also an easy going person and struggled a lot; he was a great man by all standards,’’ Adepoju said.
Also, ex-international, Bright Omokaro; one of Okon’s playmates, said in an emotion laden voice that it was saddening to hear about his death.
“I first read about it on the Facebook, but there is nothing we can do about it.
“There is a price everybody must pay and nobody knows when death will come calling; it will come at any time.
“Being human, I felt so bad because he was young but what I know is that he served his fatherland very well.
“Another issue is about the welfare of players that has been neglected for many years. Footballers in this country don’t get the right compensation for their service to their fatherland,’’ he said.
Omokaro, however, urged ex-players in the country to come together under one strong and functional umbrella to champion their cause and see to the welfare of ex-internationals.
NAN reports that Okon was reported to have died on March 15, his birthday, during a brief illness at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital.
Okon, fondly referred to as “Apakpan’’ during his playing days, started his football career with the University of Calabar.
He later proceeded to represent the university at the National University Games (NUGA) in the early 80’s and also represented Nigeria at Chile ’87 U-20 World Cup.
The midfielder later played for Nigeria at AFCON Senegal ‘92
Okon played for several clubs including Acada United of UNICAL, Rovers of Calabar, BCC Lions of Gboko and Akwa United of Uyo.
His last duty was coaching Calabar Rovers and he was one of the most decorated footballers from Cross Rivers.