By Bamidele Lawson
American friends, fans, and associates of Thompson Onoramie Usiyan, former Green Eagles (now Super Eagles) player and international, who passed away on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, in his Lamest, Redonda Beach home in California, USA, have poured tributes on the soccer legend.
Described as the “most complete” striker to ever adorn the national colors, the Urhobo-born Thompson Usiyan, who was in the Green Eagles from 1976 to 1981, passed away at the age of 65. The cause of his death was not disclosed.
Fondly called ‘Tomo’ by friends and fans in America, Thompson Usiyan, who was former treasurer and active member of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), America, had a 15-year outdoor and indoor professional soccer career in the United States. He notched 22 goals in 3 NASL (North American Soccer League) seasons and finished as the 16th all-time leading scorer after 8 MISL seasons. At Appalachian State University, Thompson Usiyan scored an NCAA-record 109 career goals, and the Montreal Manic made him the 10th overall selection of the 1981 NASL Draft. He flourished with the Manic and played for the Tulsa Roughnecks in 1983, but came to life in the MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League), where he earned 2 MISL All-Star selections, reached the 1986 MISL Championship Series with the Minnesota Strikers, and won the 1992 MISL title with the San Diego Sockers.
Shocked by the news of his death, many of his friends and associates penned emotional tributes on their social media pages. Ray Weber of the San Diego (SD) Indoor Soccer Strikerz, described him as a friend to all.
Ray Weber wrote: “Thompson made San Diego his home by choice too after his brilliant playing career ended in the ’90s. He was a truly superb player, a wonderful guy, always a smile, and a gentleman to AL. Past Sockers great and teammate and Strikerz player and our dear friend too Ben Collins, was extremely close to Tomo and this is a very, very hard time for Ben too.
“Our love to Tomo, Ben, and to all family, friends, and fans. We will never forget him and the impact that he had on us all.”
Michael Collins, a former teammate of Usiyan, says he was an incredible man and player. “I had the pleasure of being Tomo’s teammate for a year. Great person and friend. He will be missed. Huhhhhh. That was his little response to most things he said. Loved this Guy. God bless my friend.”
Brooks Holman, in his tribute, stated that Usiyan “was MVP on and off the field. He was a kind, intelligent, amazing soccer player, and never saw him without a smile. First time I met Tomo was playing in an off-season indoor tournament with the Sockers in Europe. They only got paid if they came in the top three and he is the reason they did. He said “put the ball anywhere” upfront and he would get it. I thought a bit vague and a bit cocky. But he did. No easy balls to tap in. Just put it up and he would chase it down and make things happen.
“A joy to watch and sad that we only got him at the end of his career. But so lucky to have got to know him and know my entire family feels the same way. RIP Tomo.”
Another former teammate, Lee Cornwell, described Usiyan as a “Great player and a great teammate. Always upbeat. And just a great guy. You will be missed Tomo.”
Remembering the departed soccer player, Roberto E Ruiz said: “he was our coach and a great person. Learned so much from him. Saints CIF champs with him as coach. It was an honor to know him…” Another fan and retired officer of the US Navy, Frank Saragosa, said “Tomo was cool and calm during a play but always a deadly shot on goal. RIP Tomo.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian soccer legend, Felix Owolabi, who was a teammate of Usiyan in the Green Eagles in the 70s, in his tribute said: “Usiyan was a delight to watch in the attack. One cannot forget his contributions in a hurry. His departure for the US at that time created a big vacuum in the team.
“If not for the ingenuity of Coach Father Tiko that converted Segun Odegbami into a striker, we would have found it difficult to win the Nations Cup in 1980,” he said.
On his part, renowned journalist, publisher, and soccer buff, Austin Edewor, eulogised:
“Adieu Thompson Usiyan!
“Uvwie Kingdom worthy ambassador
“Ex Green Eagles Striker
“Ex Nigeria Academicals
“Ex Bendel Academicals
“Ex Asabatex Football club
“Ex Hussey College Warri captain
“Ex Uvwie Firestone Football Club
“May your soul rest in peace.”
Born April 27, 1956, at Effurun in Uvwie Local Government Nigeria April 27, 1956, Thompson was a member of the Nigerian team that qualified for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. The Nigerian soccer team traveled to Canada but did not play in the competition because African nations boycotted the Summer Games.
Usiyan attended Appalachian State University. He performed in the North American Soccer League, the NASL indoor circuit, the first United Soccer League, Major Indoor Soccer League, American Professional Soccer League, Canadian Soccer League, and Continental Indoor Soccer League. He made his pro debut with the Montreal Manic in 1981, where he scored 21 goals in 58 appearances over two seasons before playing for the Tulsa Roughnecks from 1983-84 before the NASL folded.
As an indoor soccer player, Usiyan filled the net for the San Diego Sockers, Minnesota Strikers, Los Angeles Lazers, St. Louis Storm, St. Louis Ambush, and San Jose Grizzlies. He also played the 1991 CSL season with the Hamilton Steelers in 1991.
After scoring 19 goals for the Grizzlies in 1995, Thompson Usiyan retired and lived in San Diego, where he was a tax consultant.