Former Super Eagles’ captain, Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh has joined in mourning the death of an ex-goalkeeper and assistant coach in the Nigerian national team, Joe Erico, who passed to the great beyond in the early hours of Thursday.
Megasportsarena.com reports that Erico, fondly called ‘Jogo Bonito Exponent,’ died aged 72 after suffering stomach pain late Wednesday in Lagos, following which he was treated for malaria, only for him to give up the ghost on his hospital bed.
In reaction, Oliseh recalled how they worked together in the Eagles’ squad of 2002 that finished third at the Africa Cup of Nations in Mali and qualified for the World Cup of the same year in Korea/Japan, but they were both denied the opportunity of making history for Nigeria at the first Mundial to be co-hosted by two countries.
Oliseh joined the long array of eulpogies, after the Nigerian football was again thrown into mourning after news broke of the former senior national team goalkeeper, AFCON ’76 bronze medalist and one-time assistant coach of the Super Eagles.
Born Joseph Bassey Eric in Odukpani local government area of Cross River State, ‘Erico’ belonged to the cast of the very best goalkeepers in the history of Nigeria’s senior team and he served at the same period as the revered Emmanuel Okala and Eyo Essien.
He made his debut for then Green Eagles in a 1972 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, which Nigeria won 3-2 against Zambia in Lagos in July 1973 and then kept goal in all of the national team’s six matches at the 1976 AFCON in Ethiopia, where they placed finished third.
It was the first time Nigeria would win a medal at the AFCON, before which Erico had also been in goal in all of Nigeria’s pre-tournament friendlies against Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania before the team flew to Ethiopia.
Nicknamed ‘Jogo Bonito Exponent’ during his day of coaching Julius Berger FC of Lagos, where he exhibited a rare preference for fluency and rhythm of play from his players, Erico was an assistant to Amodu Shaibu, alongside Stephen Keshi, in the crew that won bronze at AFCON 2002 in Mali.
They also qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as they took over from Jo Bonfrere with three matches left in the campaign, and must-win statuses in all the remaining games, yet the trio got the job done and qualified Nigeria for the first Mundial to be co-hosted by two countries.
However, Erico decided to stay out of the national team and concentrated on youth football development, after he, Amodu and Keshi were sacked just before the Eagles headed out to Korea/Japan 2002 and, with his death late Wednesday, it means all three of the historic coaches have now passed on, much to dismay of Oliseh.
‘The Passmaster’ has now taken to social media to reveal his emotions over the death of Erico, who he described a great servant of Nigeria and will be missed by everyone in the football line at home and across the world, but memories will linger forever over how the keeper-turned-gaffer worked hard to take the Eagles higher.
Oliseh posted: “Sad day as we mourn the loss of a great servant to Nigeria, World cup 2002 Qualifying coach, Coach Joseph Erico at the age of 71. May his blessed soul rest in peace. We will miss you dearly Coach Jogo Bonito.”