Sabara : The African Football Coach

Sabara : The African Football Coach
Sabara : The African Football Coach

For the best part of about three months when we started planning and much more compelling in the last 24 hours, I have mentally struggled to find the most apt title for this narrative, SABARA; THE AFRICAN FOOTBALL COACH.

Just to make a quick clarification, the central subject matter here is the one and only respected football coach, Sebastian Brodericks Imasuen, affectionately known as ‘Sabara’.

To settle for the title used here, my mind travelled back well over thirty years when I made the first contact with the book THE AFRICAN CHILD written by Camara Laye. The book was actually an autobiography because it was the narration of the author’s earliest childhood, set in a harmonious polygamous family, agrarian community and immense influence of Islam and France. Given the setting of Laye’s narration, it could indeed pass for the childhood of a typical AFRICAN CHILD of that generation. The book was published in 1954, originally in French language.

Now, let us fast forward to 2023, and look at the current state of Coach Sebastian Brodericks Imasuen and so many other African Coaches. Him and most of his age are bedridden, and seemingly neglected by the societies that they gave happy moments via their talents and crafts as football coaches and pioneers of some kind.

To put things in perspectives, Sebastian Brodericks Imasuen was the Chief Coach of Nigeria National U-17 football team, nicknamed the Golden eaglets. The team made Nigeria and the African continent proud by emerging the champions of the FIFA organised Championship. The team was captained by Nduka Ugbade. Sabara assistant coaches in the team were Christian Chukwu(Chairman) and Kelechi ‘Catterpillar’ Emetiole. The entire world was wowed by the football artistry displayed by the Nigerian School Boys International. This happened in China in 1985.

This inaugural edition of the FIFA cadet championship was originally U-16 but subsequently became U-17 championship.

Coach Sabara subsequently led Nigeria to the 1987 and 1989 editions in Canada and Scotland respectively. The showings of Sabara tutored sides were brilliant in their outings and helped in no small measure to put Nigeria and African Football on the map. Over the three editions of this championship, Sabara discovered and exposed lots of talented footballers to the global football audience.

Players such as Nduka Ugbade, Fatai Atere, Binebi Carlos Numa, Tonworimi Duere, Victor Igninoba etc were prominent in China is 1985.

In 1987, Dimeji ‘Kabongo’ Lawal, Christopher Nwosu, Segun Fetuga, Peter Ogaba, Philip Osondu etc mesmerized the world including the great Pele himself in Canada. In 1989, Scotland hosted the world and eaglets dazzled the world until they met Saudi Arabia in the quarter finals. Players such as Jide Oguntuashe, Kayode Keshinro, Patrick Mancha, Bobolayefa Edon, Godwin Okpara, and the Prince of Monaco, Victor Ikpeba grabbed the headlines and gave the hope that an African team was close to winning the World Cup.

Coach Sabara did other great jobs as a football coach but his forays with the U-17 National football team established his status as an iconic African Coach.

Today Sabara alongside some of his African contemporaries are critically ill and bedridden, lonely and neglected by all of us and achingly the football community that they served and gave some glistering moments.

Members of ACC Edo Chapter with Mrs. Helen Imasuen, Sabara's wife.
ACC Leadership and Members of the Edo State Chapter with Mrs. Helen Imasuen, Sabara’s wife.

Just within the past twenty-four hours, officials and members of African Coaches Connect (ACC) led by its Founder and President Eldred Sunju-Abbey Abbey including this writer, it’s Executive Director of Business Strategy and Media Communications, Gbenga James, Fred Newton, the South-South Zonal Coordinator and Chief Liaison on Member’s Association and Federation with the entire Edo State Chapter visited Sabara on his sick bed, somewhere in Benin, Edo State. He has been surviving by the Grace of God and the bit that his family can afford.

In the words of his wife Mrs. Helen Imasuen, ” he needs expert medical care and attention. Getting assistance for his bills will be very useful as well”.

In response, officials of the African Coaches Connect inducted him into ACC’s Care Outreach, a special welfare program for African Coaches and Communities, and promised to reach out and bring the plight of Sabara to the public space. Hopefully, this write-up will motivate appropriate reaction.

A clarion SOS call is in order. Where are the Friends of football in Nigeria, Africa and Globally, comprising governments, philanthropists, corporate bodies, public spirited individuals and financially successful or comfortable Sabara’s former players? This is the time to stand for, beside, before and behind this great African Coach, Sebastian Brodericks Imasuen and many other African Coaches not mentioned here as they all urgently need our love, help and humanity and ACC will continue with its searchlights in pursuance and cognizant of improving African Coaches.

As I conclude this write up, a song is playing in my head. The song was composed and recorded by veteran and very successful Nigerian artiste, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey.

Finally, this is not to be mistaken as a fund raiser for African Coaches Connect or any of its members. But an ACC care outreach program for Sabara and all of African’s great sons and daughters in the football coaching discipline. This is an SOS call for awareness that Sabara and many other African Coaches Worldwide needs our love and care, and that periodically ACC will be inducting them into its Care Outreach Program. Our accountability and transparency reflects and accommodates designated members of their families into our machineries and procedural, and only designated account details titled after our inductees will be published.


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