On Wednesday, Nigeria lost one of the country’s footballing heroes. Sebastian Broderick-Imaseun was pronounced dead at 85 after a long-term battle with illness.
Broderick took Nigeria to the peak of joy when he won the country’s first global football trophy at the 1985 FIFA/KODAK U-16 World Cup in China.
But Nigeria abandoned him deep in the abyss of pain when he needed the country most.
He battled diabetes and stroke for years, and the family spent its fortune with little result. The family’s plea to the government also yielded little fruit. The man whose name should feature eternally in Nigerian history withered away on a sickbed due to limited funds.
Broderick was not only an accomplished coach, he enjoyed a well-decorated playing career with a handful of Challenge Cup titles. He was also in the Green Eagles squad that played against Pele’s Santos in 1969.
Broderick was born in Benin City on July 9, 1938. He attended St John’s Primary School, Onitsha, before gaining admission into Bishop Shanahan College, Orlu in 1955 and obtained his West African Schools Certificate (WASC) in 1960.
Broderick fell in love with football at the early stage of his life. He played on local pitches where passion substituted for the rule of the game.
“Whatever the coach told us was the rule. We followed the coach’s instructions,” he reminisced in a chat with Vanguard.
After his education, Broderick had the right talent and physicality to pursue a professional football
AN ALL-ROUND MIDFIELDER
Broderick was a gifted midfielder with the discipline and technicality to play in front of the defenders or upfield as a playmaker. He played for two years in Onitsha before moving to the defunct Electricity Corporation of Nigeria Football Club of Lagos (ECN FC) in 1962.
While with ECN, he won the Challenge Cup — renamed Federation Cup — in 1965 and 1970.
He moved to Bendel Insurance shortly after. He won another Challenge Cup in 1972. He scored a sumptuous freekick in the final against Mighty Jets of Jos.
Broderick was a member of the Nigerian team that featured in the football event of the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. The team crashed out in the group stage but not without securing a famous 3-3 draw against Brazil in their final game.
HE PLAYED AGAINST PELE
In the late 1960s, Brazilian football was the toast of the world. At the heart of the phenomenon was Pele. He had led the Brazilian men’s national team to two consecutive World Cups in 1958 and 1962.
Leveraging Pele’s global stardom, Santos FC, his club, organised a world tour so fans could see the man who was once regarded as the eighth world wonder.
Nigeria was one of the destinations for Santos. The Brazilian club visited Nigeria in early 1969.
Broderick was a member of the Green Eagles side arranged to face the Brazilians. He said the Nigerian players were instructed “not to allow Pele to score”. But the “king of football” scored twice and the match ended 2-2.
“It was a great game because we played at the Onikan stadium,” Broderick said.
“Before we started the game, we were instructed not to allow Pele to score. So when the game began, he was roving around the pitch, playing around, but when the time came for him to shoot, nobody saw when he was given the ball, and he shot into the net.
“And I thought, look at the person they said everybody should stop from scoring. Yet, he scored a beautiful goal. So, that was the magic of football. That was the magic.
MANAGERIAL JOURNEY, BRIEF STINT WITH MAN UNITED
After an eventful and trophy-laden playing career, Brodericks retired and switched to coaching in 1975.
He was sponsored to take a coaching course in England by Samuel Ogbemudia, who was the military governor of the then-midwestern state.
“For those who know England very well, I went to Durham, North East of England, for the course,” Broderick said.
“After the course, I was attached to Manchester United, then managed by Tommy Docherty, then to Manchester City, then a second division club and Queens Park Rangers in London.”
Upon returning to Nigeria, Brodericks took to youth development and gravitated towards grassroots football.
He coached Edokpolor Grammar School, Benin, to win All Schools Sports at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan 1983. His exploits at the age-grade level earned him a job as Nigeria’s coach for the maiden edition of the FIFA/KODAK U-16 World Cup in China.
“Then, late Air Commodore Anthony Ikhazobor was the minister of sports. He invited me to Lagos. Then the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria had a standing team. Late Chief MKO Abiola was their patron. The YSFON team formed the nucleus of the U16 team I started with,” he said.
FIFA/KODAK 1985 U-16 TRIUMPH
In 1985, Broderick became the first coach to lead an African country to a world championship after winning the FIFA/KODAK U-16 World Cup in China.
The team, which comprised Nduka Ugbade, Jonathan Akpoborie and Imama Amapakabo, finished second in a group with Italy, Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica.
They defeated Hungary 3-1 in the quarter-final before beating Guinea on penalties in the semi-final.
Nigeria then stunned the world on August 11, 1965, after defeating Germany 2-0 in the final.
“Black kids were not supposed to beat white kids,” Dele Giwa, the late journalist, wrote in celebration of the improbable triumph. Many Nigerians never knew the competition was being held until the team qualified for the final.
“It was so special to me because while I was working here in Benin, my colleagues who, like me, were doing their jobs as state coaches had other private jobs with schools or companies as well. They grew up in the old Bendel and were known,” Brodericks reminisced about the victory.
“Conversely, I did not grow up here in Benin and was better known, maybe as a national player. My colleagues got contract jobs like the annual Central Bank Games.
“They would do their normal jobs and later go to those private ones, and they would pay them allowances. Another one was in Union Bank and still maintained his normal coaching job. Even though I believed I was doing well and deserved such opportunities too, I never had one.
“When I went to Onitsha one day and told my mother that I believed I was doing well but was not getting side jobs like my colleagues were, she called me Sabara, ‘your evening will be better than your morning’.
“So, when we went to China, and we won the World Cup, the highest trophy one can win, with me as the head coach, when I entered my hotel, I went to my bed and started shedding tears because I recalled what my mother told me. I said, my evening has started now. That was my highest point in my football career.”
Brodericks also led Nigeria to the second edition of the age-grade World Cup in Canada in 1987, where the team won the silver medal after losing to the defunct Soviet Union in the final.
He won the Nigerian league with little-known Udoji United in 1996.
LONG BATTLE WITH ILLNESS
In a 1996 chat with PM News, Brodericks claimed he had invested in UAC, Agip Oil, and Nigerian Breweries. He added that he had enough to sustain his family and train his children. However, the decline of Nigeria’s economy and the naira atrophy dealt Brodericks a vital blow.
In January 2023, Chuka Imasuen, Broderick’s son, revealed that his father was suffering from diabetes, for which the family had spent millions.
The son said the former Golden Eaglets coach had been battling ill health for a couple of years.
According to Complete Sports, Chuka said the family had contacted the then-Edo state government but did not receive any support.
“The Edo state government is aware of his condition. They keep telling us that they will reach out to us, but we are yet to hear from them,” the son said.
There was no report of any government intervention in his plight till he died on Wednesday.