The ‘last of the firsts’ passes on
Late Titus Okere
By Rasheed Adewuyi
The Nigeria Football Federation has paid tribute to the last member of the pioneering UK Tourists to pass away, Titus Davis Okere, whose remains were interred at Bluebell Hill Crematorium in Kent, United Kingdom a few days ago.
Okere, a dazzling left winger, was the last surviving member of the first-ever Nigeria National Football Team, which travelled to the United Kingdom in 1949 to play nine friendly matches, out of which it won two, drew two and lost five.
NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, said: “The Nigeria Football Federation mourns the passing of Titus Davis Okere. As a member of the UK Tourists, who played with bare feet yet showed great spirit in the nine matches they played. He was a pioneer Football Ambassador of our great nation.
“Even though we did not watch him play, we read accounts of his exceptional skills and hard work on the pitch for the country and for the English clubs he played for – Swindon Town FC and Chippenham United. We pray that Almighty God will grant him eternal rest and grant his family and close ones the fortitude to bear the loss.”
Swindon Town FC, for which Okere played 70 years ago, did a moving tribute to the departed player. His contract with Swindon Town in February 1953 made him the first Nigeria footballer to sign a professional contract.
The UK Tourists arrived in England on 29 August 1949. On arrival, an Englishman, John Finch was attached to them as coach. They played barefooted and won two, drew two and lost five of their matches against Marine Cosby, Bishop Auckland, Leystone FC, Isthmian League XI, Corinthians League XI, Dulwich Hamlet, South Liverpool, Bromley and Athenian League XI.