Sole survivor of Nigerian UK Tourist team Pa Titus Okere celebrates his 94th birthday in Kent


NIGERIA'S sole surviving member of her first ever national team the UK Tourists who took the world by storm in 1949 Pa Titus Okere recently celebrated his 94th birthday in Kent along with his grand children.


On Monday, August 29, 1949, the Nigerian UK Tourists docked in Liverpool aboard the MV Apapa, with Titus Okere being one of the 18 players in the first ever national team. In the UK to play nine goodwill matches against English amateur clubs, the purpose of this tour was to test the strength of Nigerian talent against good quality opposition.


Some 13 of the 18 players were from the Lagos and District League, while two from the Western Province, two from the Eastern Province and one from the Northern Province. They were selected not just for their football skills but also because they were deemed the best candidates to represent the colonial Nigerian Football Association in the home nation.


Pa Okere is the sole survivor of these 18 foundation members of the Nigerian national football team, that included the famous Teslim "Thunder" Balogun among others. Frances Okere, his granddaughter recently celebrated his 94th birthday along with a great-grandson Maxwell Okere at his place of abode in Kent, UK.


Back in 1949, Pa Okere played for Nigeria’s first national team in their goodwill tour of England and also played in Nigeria’s first international match against Sierra Leone on  October  8 1949. He clocked 94 yesterday and was celebrated by his offspring, who dropped by to mark the occasion with the family patriarch.


Three years ago, Pa Okere lost his wife,  Patricia. He has just one son, Titus, whom he named after himself and Titus Okere jnr, had two daughters, Frances and Georgina Okere who is now Mrs Coates.


Also, there are two great grandchildren, Maxwell Okere, the son of Frances and Sebastian Coates. Frances, the granddaughter also pointed out that Pa Okere lost his wife, Patricia Okere three years ago.


Back in 1949, the Nigerian Tourists wore olive green jerseys and white shorts and they played with strips of white adhesive plasters around their big toes to prevent them splitting. They also wore white elastic ankle and knee supports plus green football socks with cut-off feet.


In total, 10  of the players played with their bare feet except one player, Dokubo, who wore lightly soled canvas shoes because he was used to them. There were many oohs and aahs from spectators when the players’ bare feet came in contact with the tough leather ball but they delighted the crowds with their mesmerising skills.