Dr Kennis Ebirim, a family physician with the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, has been confirmed dead after watching Tuesday’s 2018 World Cup match between Nigeria and Argentina.
Family members, colleagues and neighbours confirmed the death of Ebirim to the News Agency of Nigeria at his residence in Owerri.
The deceased was reported to have slumped and rushed to hospital after Nigeria crashed out of the world football tournament.
Dr Chikere Ebirim, a lecturer in the Department of Public Health, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, and younger brother to the deceased, expressed shock over the development.
He said: “We were together on Sunday with my dad. He used to have cases of heart attack but he was also on medication.
“This is so shocking because he was sound in health when he left Owerri on Monday morning for Abakaliki where he works.”
Dr Hyacinth Emele, the immediate past Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Imo state branch, also confirmed the incident to NAN, describing it as a heavy blow to the association.
“The NMA in Imo and indeed in Nigeria is in deep shock. This is a heavy blow. More than just a colleague, he was a brother, one who could never hurt a fly,” he said.
On the possible cause of the doctor’s death, Emele said: “Dr Ebirim has been a hypertensive patient who has also been on medication.
“What happened to him is what we call sudden death syndrome which most times are caused by a cardiac arrest.
“As a patriotic Nigerian who is passionate about his country just like many of us including me, it is possible the outcome of that match may have triggered the confusion in his system, causing him to slump.
“I think an autopsy will reveal what exactly transpired in his system. When that is done, the exact cause of death will be made known to the public.”
Sgt. Michael Attah, the Chief Security Officer, Heartland Estate, Owerri, where the doctor lived with his family until his death, said the management of the estate confirmed the incident on Wednesday.
“We thought it was a joke until we confirmed it on Wednesday. We feel sad because he was someone we trusted with the position of treasurer in the estate,” he said.
Ebirim is survived by his father, wife, four children and relations.
In another development, Former Nigerian captain Austin Okocha has attributed the Super Eagles’ early exit at the 2018 World Cup to inexperience.
The Eagles lost to Argentina 2-1 in their last group match on Tuesday to exit the tournament.
A lack-lustre Argentina team advanced to the knockout stages after Lionel Messi and Marcos Rojo scored either side of a Victor Moses’ converted spot kick.
Okocha, who was a guest analyst on Supersport during the game, said the Eagles panicked in the first half and came back in the second half of the match but failed to convert their chances before the Argentines scored the winner.
The former Bolton Wanderers’ captain said, “(Francis) Uzoho kept us in the game with the saves he made in the second half. We panicked in the first half but the players fought back in the second.
“It was going to be tough for us and it lived up to that and it went to the last three minutes, but I think we have to look at the bigger picture. For most of these players it was the first time.
“The penalty was a gift from Mascherano but then I thought we started the second half better. We got ourselves in better places. It was a fantastic penalty from Moses but I think we should have put Argentina under more pressure.
“There was a foul on (Kelechi) Iheanacho in the first half but it was not awarded because nobody appealed to the referee. They didn’t put the referee under pressure. The defender raised his foot too high to clear the ball and hit Iheanacho on the head. For the second one, it was unfortunate that the referee didn’t award it despite consulting the VAR and Rojo got away with that one.”