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We have heard stories of players who died on the pitch. One that will forever remain in the memory of Nigerians occurred on August 12, 1989, when Samuel Okwaraji collapsed and died in Lagos while playing against Angola in a World Cup Qualifier. Since then, Nigeria has recorded at least eight other players who have died on the pitch.

But we are now seeing a shift from the players to their supporters or fans, especially in the ongoing AFCON 2023 in Côte d’Ivoire. At least four supporters of Nigeria’s national team died while watching the tournament.

Cairo Ojougboh:

Nationality: Nigeria

Date: February 7, 2024

Location: FCT, Abuja

While Nigerians were still celebrating their victory over the Bafana Bafana of South Africa, news broke about the death of Cairo Ojougboh, who slumped and died after the South African side scored their penalty awarded against Super Eagles at 90 minutes of the match on February 7, 2024.

He didn’t live to watch his country beat the South African side. Super Eagles at the end qualified for the finals after 4-2 penalty kicks against the Bafana Bafana.

He was a member of the House of Representatives between 2003 to 2007, representing Ika Federal Constituency of Delta State.

The late politician was a former Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters to former President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The incident happened when the penalty was awarded against Nigeria. Dr Ojougboh was said to have shouted and slumped due to a massive heart attack when SA scored,” A family source was quoted as saying.

Peter Yunana

Nationality: Nigeria

Date: February 7, 2024

Location: Numan, Adamawa

In Adamawa State, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving identified as Peter Yunana also slumped and gave up the ghost while watching Nigeria’s Super Eagles vs. South Africa.

“According to his colleagues who went with him to watch the match, the late corps member told them that he doesn’t like watching penalty shootout, he then bowed his head and all of a sudden he collapsed,” Adamawa NYSC Coordinator, Mr. Jingi Dennis confirmed his death, saying “He was confirmed dead at the General Hospital by the doctor,”

Mikail Osundiji

Nationality: Nigeria

Date: February 7, 2024

Location: Abeokuta, Ogun State

Similarly, 43-year-old Mikail Osundiji collapsed at a popular viewing center in Olomoore, Abeokuta, Ogun State, after the Egyptian referee Amin Omar canceled Victor Osimhen’s second goal against the resilient South African side.

Osundiji, who hailed from Okuku, Osun State, was a sales representative with a multinational until his death, which was caused by shock during the Super Eagles’ heated encounter with Bafana Bafana.

Eye witness report says the deceased breathed heavily after the second goal was cancelled, “lowered his head and consequently fell to the ground at the viewing center.”

A family member said he has been buried according to Islamic injunctions at his home town on Thursday.

Chief Osondu Nwoye

Nationality: Nigeria

Date: February 7, 2024

Location: Ivory Coast

The Anambra-born billionaire allegedly died while watching the Super Eagles of Nigeria play against the South African national team.

Nwoye was said to be the richest Igbo businessman based in Ivory Coast before his death.

According to eyewitnesses, Nwoye was on top of the moon, shouting on top of his voice, when Nigerian striker, Victor Osihmen scored the second goal, which was later cancelled by the Video Assistant Referee, VAR.

The shock of seeing the goal cancelled and a penalty awarded to South Africa was too much to bear for his fragile heart, leading to his collapse inside the stadium.

He was immediately rushed to the hospital but all efforts to revive him failed as he was pronounced dead.

The four deaths recorded so far are men, attesting to research that watching football could be injurious to persons who have cardiovascular-related ailments.

On December 22, 2000, a team of researchers led by Professor Diederick Grobbee from the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, Netherlands, reported that watching football can be fatal when one is overexcited.

They also attributed deaths during football matches to excessive alcohol intake, overeating, and excessive smoking.

Their research followed the unusual death rate that was recorded on the day the Dutch national team was knocked out on June 22, 1996, during the European Championship, which was held in England.

It was discovered that men recorded more incidents which they attributed to heart attacks and strokes during the Netherlands vs France match which ended in penalty and favour of France.

They wrote in the British Medical Journal that, “important sporting events may provoke a sufficient level of stress to trigger symptomatic cardiovascular disease. The difference between men and women requires further investigation,” Daily Mail UK reported.

Similarity between the Netherlands/France match and Nigeria/South Africa match

Similar to the Netherlands vs France Match that ended in 0-0 draw, the Nigeria vs South Africa match ended 1-1 after extra time.

Just like France, Nigeria won on penalties. However, while 41 supporters of the losing team (Dutch) dropped dead in 1996, there were only three recorded casualties on the side of Nigeria, the victorious team that qualified for the finals.

Professor Grobbee’s team reported that in men, “deaths from heart attacks and strokes rose significantly on the day of the game compared with the five days on either side.”

Researchers say unusual mental or emotional stress and high alcohol consumption could trigger heart attacks and hypertension.

A report by researchers at University of Edinburgh says there were more than 28 million cases of hypertension in Nigeria in 2020, rising from four million in 1995, saying one out of three Nigerians is at risk of high BP.

Hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure reading above 140/90, and it is considered severe if the pressure exceeds 180/120.

Also, some sports enthusiasts in the country have mentioned that bettors may experience high blood pressure when their favorite team is not leading, especially if they feel that their team might lose the match.

SolutionFor sports enthusiasts who may experience high blood pressure during a match, physicians recommend taking aspirin or heart medication as part of their warm-up routine before important football matches.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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