From UK Tourists to football immortality: Nigeria’s longest-living international player passes away
Nigeria mourn the loss of Titus Okere, its oldest former international footballer, who passed away at 94, Soccernet.ng reports.
Okere, a member of Nigeria’s inaugural national team known as the UK Tourists of 1949, breathed his last in Kent, UK. Frances Okere, his granddaughter, informed Sports Village Square of his demise.
Born on March 22, 1929, in Ngor Okpala local Government in Owerri, Imo State, Okere received his education from various institutions, including St. Cyprian’s Anglican School, Port Harcourt, Kalabari National College, and Okrika Grammar School.
In his youth, Okere showcased his skills with local teams such as Zik’s Athletic Club in Port Harcourt and Lagos Railways, where he captained the latter to multiple victories and trophies in 1948.
His exceptional performances caught the attention of the national team selectors, earning him a spot in the Nigerian squad representing the nation during a time when independence had not yet been achieved.
As the left-wing wizard of the 1949 UK Tourists, Okere played a pivotal role in the team’s matches against English amateur clubs and their international encounter with Sierra Leone, where he contributed a goal in a triumphant 2-0 victory.
Following the 1949 tour, Okere’s talent garnered praise from the British press. Edgar Kail of the UK’s Daily Graphic lauded Okere’s speed and brilliance on the field, even suggesting his experience made him a viable candidate for most European league sides.
In 1953, Okere made history as the first Nigerian citizen to play professional football abroad, signing for Swindon Town.
After departing Nigeria in February 1953, he never returned, settling in Kent, approximately 61 kilometers from London, where he led a quiet life.
Titus Okere’s legacy as a pioneering Nigerian footballer and his significant contributions to the sport will forever be remembered in the history of Nigerian football.