By Amaechi Agbo
President Muhammadu Buhari is saddened to learn of the passing of former Nigeria senior team goalkeeper and one-time assistant coach of the Super Eagles, Joe Erico.
Commiserating with the family of the legendary player and tactician, as well as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), the President avers that the nation will forever remember him for his tireless devotion to duty, ensuring victory for Nigeria when it mattered most in football.
President Buhari believes that Coach Erico’s guidance as a veteran would have availed much for the Nigerian football community, but it pleased his Maker to call him home at such a time.
The President prays almighty God to grant the soul of the deceased eternal rest and divine comfort for family, friends, associates, and everyone who came in contact with the talented sportsman.
Erico was a part of the coaching crew of the Super Eagles at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations tournament that was held in Lagos and also helped qualify Nigeria for the 2002 AFCON and World Cup.
He was 72-years-old.
Fondly referred to as ‘Jogo Bonito’ by his admirers, Erico passed on in Lagos after a brief illness. The former goalkeeper’s death was confirmed on Thursday morning by the Super Eagles media officer, Babafemi Raji via Brila FM. The outspoken former Super Assistant coach was said to have complained of stomach ache and then died in his sleep.
Erico started out his football career with the Nigerian Police Force, before having various stints with NEPA, Nigeria Railways, Electricity Connectors of Nigeria and Julius Berger – where he won several silverware.
Among other exploits with the Nigeria national team, Erico was part of the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations staged in Ethiopia. The national football team, then fondly known as the Green Eagles finished third with Erico playing a crucial role.
As a coach, Erico also had a number of highs as he was part of the coaching crew that qualified the Nigeria U23 squad for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Unfortunately, he was fired on the eve of the competition by the Nigeria Football Federation.