FAREWELL  “JOHNNY KWANGO”; LET’S HELP FREGENE NOW

The last few weeks have been ultra hectic for me, but not too hectic to miss the sad news of the passing away of Stores’ legend, Yomi Peters.  Together with Haruna Ilerika and the rhymic  Ajagun/Ajavon combo (Tajudeen Ajagun and Prosper Ajavon), Yomi was the most talked about player in Lagos in the 70s and early 80s. A firm favourite of the club’s founder, Israel Adebajo, Yomi Peters was at various times player, Captain and coach of the club, winning national and continental laurels in the process.

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Late Yomi Peters

A product of that famous football factory called St Finbarr’s College, he was a fantastic striker who put in 101% whenever he stepped on to the field in the colours of the flaming flamingoes. Apart from his goals, it was the extra “1%” that put him in the news every now and then: Those defenders who came in purposely to whack and kick Yomi always invariably ended up on the hospital bed themselves after receiving equal measure from the fiery striker. That was how his nickname came about; “Johnny Kwango” (named after the famous wrestler of the 70s).

As would be expected, Yomi’s aggressive play got him into trouble with one or two referees, but off the field he was a very disciplined man. Although the founder of Stationery Stores, Israel Adebajo loved him so much, his joining Stores was delayed for several years because he chose to practice his profession as a refrigeration engineer and was compelled to play for his employers’ club, Mandilas Lions which he actually helped to form. When Adebajo died, he was simply overwhelmed with emotion and decided to join Stores same day (1969)

When Tilewa resuscitated Stationery Stores earlier this year, ‘Johny Kwango’ was there to motivate the players, and we supporters enjoyed taunting him with the nickname. Little did we know that we would soon be weeping; but God knows best.

Like most Stores players of the early generation he also got his opportunity with the Super Eagles. One of the most circulated stories back then was how he and a few other flaming flamingos were dropped on the eve of the 2nd All Africa Games because there were “too many Stores players” in the team. He took the disappointment calmly and continued to put in his best for his club. He was there when we won the Challenge Cup (now Federation Cup) for the third time and got to the African Cup Winners Cup final.

We thank God for the life of Yomi Peters. He was Stores through and through. May his soul rest in peace.

It is to avoid writing another epitaph so soon that I wish to draw our attention to the health situation of another great flamingo, Peter Fregene. Whenever the history of Nigerian football is written, Peter Fregene’s name will surely pop up among the best three goalkeepers ever. He was that good.

Fregene was among that legendary first generation of Stores players that dominated the Nigerian National Team, then called the Green Eagles, in the 1960s. To underscore his greatness, he has the special distinction of being recalled to the Eagles squad several times after many years in between; and whenever recalled, he reclaimed his No 1 shirt.

Last Sunday, at the final of the Challenge Cup (Federation Cup), Peter  Fregene was befittingly honoured alongside other distinguished persons, but the joy of hearing his name was cut short for many when he was seen being helped out on a wheelchair. Of course, being a very strong personality, he was very brave about it, acknowledging cheers from the crowd and generally looking cheerful. The fact  however, very sadly,  is that Peter Fregene, our great goalkeeper is in urgent need of help. Let us help him.

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Stores and Super Eagles’ goalkeeping legend, Peter Fregene acknowledging cheers from fans at the 2014 Federation Cup

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