Nigeria World Cup star dies suddenly aged 40

Justice Christopher passed away in his hometown

Nigerian former football star Justice Christopher, who represented his country at the 2002 World Cup, died suddenly aged 40 in his homeland on Wednesday, the country's football federation has confirmed.

Christopher represented the Super Eagles on 11 occasions after debuting with them in the same year he headed to the Japan and South Korea-held FIFA tournament won by Brazil.

Before that, he captained the Nigeria U-20 national team to the 2001 Africa Youth Championship title in Egypt.

Christopher passed away in the Racheal Hotel he owned which was named after his late sister in their hometown of Jos.

Speaking to the Premium Times anonymously, a close friend suggested to the Nigerian paper that Christopher may have died of a cardiac arrest after having slumped and then died early on Wednesday morning with no previous signs of illness – though some reports say he battled high blood pressure.

"This is a big shock to me, he had no sign of sickness and even had his routine training on Tuesday, only [for me] to hear he slumped and died this morning," the close friend remarked.

Reacting to the news, the Nigerian Football Federation said it was "devastated to hear of the sudden passing away of former Super Eagles midfielder Justice Christopher early on Wednesday morning.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and [the] football community in Nigeria. May his soul rest in peace," the organization added.

Midfielder Christopher passed through three different Nigerian outfits before joining Royal Antwerp in 2001, with his sole season in Belgium and success with the U-20 national team enough to earn inclusion to the senior squad for the 2002 World Cup.

Nigeria were beaten by Argentina and Sweden then battled to a 0-0 draw with England while finishing bottom of Group F in Asia, and Christopher went on to join Bulgaria's Levski Sofia prior to spells in Sweden, Russia, and Denmark before he retired in 2007. 

Christopher returned to football with a brief stint at Nasarawa United in his homeland five years later and passed away a decade on in Jos.

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