By Boye Ajayi
“As play resumed in the second half, Laloko, who had sat on the sidelines all the while as the NFF’s technical director, had spotted the Senegalese keeper dropped a strange object suspected to be “charm” in his goal post.
“He encroached on the pitch against all the FIFA rules governing the game, faced up to the keeper, picked up the object, and threw it away all within a minute – to the chagrin of the keeper. It proved to be the code to unlock the gate to the Senegal goal post. Two goals followed for the Eagles in quick succession and the Lions ended up losing the final ticket”
Like every other mortal, Coach Kashimawo Laloko came to the world and Nigeria, he saw, fought and conquered but answered the call of his creator last Sunday, March 28, 2021.
Boye Ajayi of Persecondnews reports on his life, times and contributions to football development, especially those things he would be remembered for.
Until Chief Kashimawo Laloko gave up the ghost in the wee hours of Sunday, he ate, drank, talked, and dreamed football. Actually, Laloko’s life was synonymous with football.
Without mincing words, hardly would any Nigerian controvert the assertion that the deceased was synonymous with football.
Right from his childhood, Laloko, we learnt was a super track athlete in his primary and secondary school days. Little wonder how his quest to be a versatile sports man drove his desire in football which eventually made him an icon in football circles in Nigeria, Africa and globally too.
It appears that the “football bug’’ in him since he left the famous Abeokuta Grammar School in Ogun had made him not to look back again as it was for him it is either football or nothing.
But one would wonder how Laloko’s penchant for the round leather game went beyond the ordinary.While others followed the sport fanatically or got carried away by it, his primary concern was only on how to discover, groom and nurse to stardom the array of budding talents that abound across the country.
As a result of this, age grade football caught his fancy and adopted it like a beautiful bride to behold.
While taking to the teaching profession in the early 1970s at the Baptist Academy, Lagos, he also doubled as the Games Master, but he concentrated more on talented footballers that he could nurture. But not until he got to St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Lagos, a few years after that his star began to shine as he led the school to victory in the then famous Lagos Principal’s Cup competition.
As at 1979 during the Oluyole National Sports Festival tagged ‘Oluyole ’79’, which was hosted by Oyo State, he had established himself firmly as an age-grade football coach after leading to gold medal haul the Lagos team comprising of nascent stars like Stephen Keshi and Raymond King, both later featured in the senior national team, Super Eagles.
Laloko’s star continued to shine as soon he was “hijacked’’ by the darling team of Lagos fans, the Stationery Stores FC of Lagos, popularly known as “Flamming Stores.” As this was not enough, he was snapped up again by First Bank FC.
Offers then came from the Northern region, where he pitched his tent with Zamfara Textiles FC. Also from the Southeast came another offer for Laloko to coach Enyimba FC after which he returned to the North to tutor Wikki Tourists FC.
Persecondnews reports that Laloko’s fondness for football also brought to the fore his adventurist nature, moving from one place to the other, depending on where his services was needed.
Shortly after, international recognition came his way as the Gambia football authorities came calling.
Besides handling the Gambia national team, he also helped the country to draw up a football organogram that would be relevant thereafter and for which Gambian football authorities are grateful and appreciative.
After the Gambian adventure, Laloko decided he had had enough. He retired home in 1992 to set up his own football academy that would soon be known as Pepsi Football Academy after the Korean beverage company leveraged on Laloko’s pedigree to fund the academy.
It was due to Laloko’s talent hunting propensity and stern discipline that the academy has flourished for nearly three decades, churning out a number of top-rated Nigerian footballers including John Obi Mikel, Osaze Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins, Stephen Makinwa, Elderson Echiejile, and Sunday Mba.
Laloko was also appointed the Technical Director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) from 1995 to 2000, during which a proper organogram was drawn and adhered to by the football body, especially in discipline and professionalism. Albeit, the strict adherence with which he pursued his duties earned him a few friends among administrators and footballers alike.
For his strings of achievements, Laloko became a man you hate to love and love to hate. But this posture, nonetheless earned him the sobriquet ‘Firebrand’ which outlived his days at the football house.
As an accentuation to the whole football life that Laloko lived, he continued to offer his services to the Soccer House years after vacating the place officially, especially on technical matters that involve training and re-training of coaches. He also inculcated administrative skills on the successive NFF hierarchy. The firebrand never held back his virulent criticism of the hierarchy when the situation arose.
Of all that Laloko contributed to Nigeria football, he would most likely be remembered for his patriotic and bold acts on the field of play at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, venue of an Africa Cup of Nations 2000 quarter final game between Super Eagles and Teranga Lions of Senegal. The Senegalese had taken a fourth-minute lead in the encounter and although the Eagles bombarded the Lions for most of the first half in search of an equaliser, but yet they failed to level scores.
Persecondnews reports that at half time, there was a palpable tension among thousands of fans gathered at the Lagos Sport City as they wondered if victory would elude their darling Eagles, who were playing at home.
As play resumed in the second half, Laloko, who had sat on the sidelines all the while as the NFF’s technical director, had spotted the Senegalese keeper dropped a strange object suspected to be “charm” in his goal post.
He encroached on the pitch against all the FIFA rules governing the game, faced up to the keeper, picked up the object, and threw it away all within a minute – to the chagrin of the keeper. It proved to be the code to unlock the gate to the Senegal goal post. Two goals followed for the Eagles in quick succession and the Lions ended up losing the final ticket.
Till date and perhaps forever, this singular courageous act of patriotism displayed by Laloko would remain indelible in the hearts of Nigerian football fans at home and around the world. It, however, immaterial for Laloko that CAF hammered him with a ban days after for six months “from all football-related activities” for encroaching on the field.
“It’s my sacrifice for Nigeria,” he said after the CAF judgment was handed down to him. Laloko had enjoyed reverence and high regard from football fans wherever he went and no doubt, he felt fulfilled.
He was never tired of contributing to football development in Nigeria — until Divinity said,“it’s enough’’ on Sunday, March 28, 2021.
Persecondnews joins the football community world over to say “adieu’’ to Laloko, a man who lived a fulfilled football life.