Ex-international, Felix Owolabi, has described the demise of his former national teammate Thompson Usiyan as painful and sad.
Both played together in the Green Eagles in the late 70s.
Usiyan, who died on Tuesday (today) in his Lamest, Redonda Beach home in California, USA at the age of 65, was born April 27, 1956 in Effurun, Delta State.
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“Just two weeks ago we lost Segun Adeleke, also in America, and now it is Usiyan. I pray God will grant his family the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss,” Owolabi said.
“Usiyan was a delight to watch in the attack. One cannot forget his contributions in a hurry. His departure for the US at that time created a big vacuum in the team.
“If not for the ingenuity of coach Father Tiko that converted Segun Odegbami into a striker, we would have found it difficult to win the Nations Cup in 1980,” he said.
Usiyan scored on his debut, a friendly match against Kenya, in 1976 and played his last match for the national team – a 2-0 defeat to Algeria – during the qualifiers for the 1982 World Cup on October 10, 1981 in Lagos.
In between, the 6ft1in striker represented Nigeria at the 1976 African Cup of Nations in Ethiopia, before winning a silver medal with the Nigerian squad at the 1978 African Games in Algiers. He was also a member of the Nigerian Olympic side that boycotted the 1976 Olympics.
Usiyan came to the limelight with the then Mid-Western State academicals, before he got an invitation to the senior national team.
Until he left for further studies in America, the late Usiyan was the leading goal scorer for the Green Eagles.
In the US, he featured for Montreal Manic, Tulsa Roughnecks, Oklahoma City Stampede, Tulsa Tornados, Los Angeles Lazers, Hamilton Steelers, St. Louis Ambush, San Diego Sockers, San Jose Grizzlies, St. Louis Storm and Hamilton Steelers in his 15-year playing career.
In 1976, Usiyan was selected as a member of the Nigerian 1976 Olympic team. After Nigeria boycotted the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Usiyan decided to remain in North America and received scholarship offers to attend Clemson University, Howard University and Appalachian State University.
He chose Appalachian, where he set an NCAA record of 109 career goals. Usiyan also set records for most career points (255), goals in a season (46 in 1980), and points in a season (108 in 1980).He was the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1977, 1978, and 1980.
Aside Owolabi, other keen followers of Nigerian football also mourned the fallen star.
“Eternal rest grant him, O Lord,” Chairman, Edo State Sports Commission, Godwin Dudu-Orumen, stated.
“Good night Tommy,” wrote veteran sports journalist Ade Ojeikhere.
A former board member, Nigeria Football Federation, Gideon Akinsola, added, “May his soul rest in peace.”