The remains of Titus Okere, the last of the 18 UK Tourists players has been laid to rest at the  Bluebell Hill crematorium in Kent, in United Kingdom. According to his granddaughter, Frances Okere, “it was a lovely service. Swindon Town paid tribute to him and sent him a tie.”

Swindon Town FC was the first club that Okere played for when he joined in February 1953 as Nigeria’s first player to sign a professional football contract.

Frances also informed that: “My Nigerian family mentioned my grandad played a friendly against Brazil and there’s some video footage of it.”

Tribute by Swindon Town FC

A  customized tie sent to Titus Okere family by Swindon Town FC

The high point of the funeral was the tribute paid by Swindon Town FC. It runs thus:

“Although he only made a few first-team appearances for Swindon Town. he was held in the highest regard by supporters and colleagues of the club alike.

“He had come to the club’s attention when he toured England with the Nigerian international team An outside left, he was nicknamed “the golden boy- because of his ability to create chances out of nothing.

“The credit for signing him for Swindon must go to Mr Louis Page. the manager. He was obviously keen to sign him as in January, two Board Meetings received reports on whether or not he would arrive by January 20th before he managed to get to this country and sign on in February as a twenty-five-year-old.

“It was typical of his sunny personality that he never complained about. not always being given a first-team chance. Swindon had a notoriously heavy pitch and it would have been impossible to wear the light footwear that he had worn playing for the Nigerian national team playing on it.

“One wonders if the light, flexible boots of today had been around. he might have been able to adapt in a way that the high, stiff leather boots worn at the time prevented.

“It is sad to report that a television company had asked for permission to be allowed to film Titus making a demonstration of how to play in bare feet, but the request was refused.

“Evidently, the Board, if not the manager, were adamant about not having a player not wearing conventional footwear.

“Another thing that may have affected his performance was the absence of his wife. He requested but was refused help in enabling his wife to come over to England. The Minute on this matter was to the effect that Titus would have to prove himself on the pitch first.

“One wonders if had the request been granted, he might have felt  more wanted and been willing to accept that he could make a home for his family in this country and that it would be worthwhile to have to get used to wearing football boots.

“Despite only being a few months, he was on Swindon’s books: those who saw him in the reserves talk of a very quick and elusive winger who frequently got the better of his full-back but whose centres were not always capitalised on.

“Sadly, it was not enough to convince the directors to retain his services, and he was released on a free transfer on the April retained and released list.

“His appearances in the Swindon reserve team evidently impressed somebody in the Chippenham United camp.

“On leaving Swindon, he was recruited by Chippanharn United, where he made an immediate impact providing a first-minute cross in the opening game of the season that led to a goal. He was also to play in the F.A Cup for Chippenham later in the season.

“At the time of his passing, he was the oldest Swindon player to have played for his country, and although the number of people who saw him play is dwindling, the year of his passing has also seen the launch of a Swindon Town Football Museum, which will ensure his memory as a great

Ambassador for his country and skillful player is kept alive.”

The post Swindon FC pay glowing tributes to Titus Okere, last survivor of Nigeria’s 1949 UK Tourists appeared first on Sports Village Square.

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