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In August 1949, a national selection of football players from Nigeria arrived Britain and played barefoot in tour of 9 friendly matches against England’s strongest amateur teams in towns like Liverpool and London. Among the 17 players of the “NIGERIAN 11″ was Limbe-born pioneer soccer player Hope BodyLawson who played full back for MARINE FOOTBALL 11. He played with such great footballers as Balogun (alias Thunderbelt), Henshaw and John Dankaro and several others.In a recently published exclusive interview by NjomoKevinTV on Youtube (check it out and subscribe). After a two-week journey by sea, the Nigerian team arrived Liverpool and met the coach named John Finch. Their first match was against MARINE CROSBY which the Nigerians won by 5-2 in Liverpool.”We had hard surface leather boots given back in Nigeria but we could not use them because we were not used to boots. And if you don’t play with them well, you sprain your ankle. So we avoided using them. We had knee caps and anklets. We played bare-foot. The Europeans had these hard leather surface boots. These boots gave us wounds. At half time while we were passing through the crowd, the English girls used their hankerchiefs to clean our wounds. News went around that we were not amateurs but professionals. So they started fielding professionals to play with us in London,” late Hope BodyLawson told veteran Sports Journalist, Njomo Kevin on NjomoKevinTV. The team caused sensation throughout England, filling stadia with spectators each match they played. Some British were seeing blacks for the very first time. The tour was a milestone in the formidable soccer career of Hope BodyLawson who would later play for PAMOL and influence the growth of football West of the Moungo River. Hope BodyLawson was born on June 1, 1924 in Victoria to the Family of Richmond Kondovi Bodylawson and Esther Ndenge Bodylawson. In 1931, he entered Government Primary School Downbeach and eight years later in 1939, he tried to get into St. Joseph’s College Sasse but was refused admission because he was not of the Roman Catholic Church. So, his father sent him to the renowned Hope Waddel Institute, Calabar in 1940.In 1944, while still at Hope Waddel, he was invited by the Nigerian Director of Marines during a football match for an interview. They wanted to know if he would like to take a job with the Marines Department because of his football skills. H.B. as he was fondly called, got his first employment as a Steam Filter and Diesel Engine Mechanic. He worked with the Marines in Lagos for five years and was transferred to Burutu where he did a six-month training course, specialising in diesel engine. Hope Bodylawson was recruited as a First Team player with the Marines Department. He was their full back. In 1949, he was selected to join the Nigerian football team which toured the United Kingdom and Ireland. During his active life, he played for other teams in Nigeria like the UAC, Ports Authority and later PAMOL in Cameroon. He was very influential and encouraged many Cameroonians to take football as a sub-career in those days. When the Nigerian first eleven returned from their succesful tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Hope was employed by the United Africa Company (UAC) on a higher salary so that he could play for their team. In 1950, he was transferred to Port Harcourt where he opened a Mineral Water bottling industry for the production of soft drinks. He served as Factory Manager in Port Harcourt for Five years after which he was transferred to Akpoje as an assistant to Mr. J.R. Wilson, a British, to construct an oil mill. He worked in Akpoje for many years under PAMOL, an associate to UAC. He and Mr Wilson were then transferred to Lobe in Cameroon to construct another oil mill. He worked in PAMOL Lobe for many years until he retired to his hometown, Victoria now Limbe. After some years of retirement, a German engineer who constructed the Mondoni Oil Mill in Tiko engaged him as an Assistant Construction Engineer because of his experience. Upon the completion of the Mondoni Oil Mill, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) employed Hope as an Oil Mill Supervisor. He was later transferred to the CDC Central Rubber Factory as a Factory Supervisor under the late Jacob Ilongo. He finally retired for a second time in 1984. Late Hope was an ardent Baptist, faithful Christian and Chorister baptised in 1936 by Rev. Ebakise Burnley. Sources: Funeral Programme of late Hope BodyLawson (courtesy of Ebenezar Ndumbe Haddison), NjomoKevinTV on Youtube, internet archives.

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