By Uche Enem
continued from the last edition
Most sports people in Nigeria prefer studying Physical Health related courses, why did you decide to study Accounting?
I did a part of accounting in my school and I love it too. I didn’t make football to be the last part of me rather I took it just as a hobby. It is possible to be a doctor and still be playing football. This happens a lot in western world. In overseas, we have Doctors, Barristers and Engineers playing professional and non professional football
What position did you play?
Outside right and outside left but I played outside right often
You combined your educational and football life to your fulfillment, how would you advise young talented players on the importance of education even in their football career?
Using the Bible quotation, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and every other thing will be added to you”, education is not a lost instrument. For the fact we have young boys rushing into football, education still remains good and it doesn’t eludes anyone dream and passion. Football is not everything. I have seen successful players injured and dumped. I have also seen successful players who died on the field. If I am a graduate and I get injured, I can still be doing my job. It is good for someone to be educated because it has its own value. In Nigeria, everyone wants to make quick money in football and they often forget that education is foremost. Anybody who is educated has no loose ends because you can get benefits at the two ends. Everybody must not be a graduate or a footballer. The governor is not a footballer yet he is a governor. We also have some talented players that are in the University playing football.
What really inspired you to becoming a Footballer?
Well, I saw football as just a game. Amongst all the games, football was the one I loved most. Also, my elder brother loved football and was playing with Port Harcourt Red Devil. I was a ball picker for my brother and Late Albert Onyeanwuna when I was younger. This gingered me to love football more and I started playing football as an infant. In my Primary and Secondary School days, I played football a lot. For example, in CKS, we won most of the competitions and we were very popular in Aba. I was the best footballer in elementary School but all my certificates were lost because of the civil war.
Were you ever discouraged by your parents?
No. They didn’t discourage me. But at a stage, my mum wanted to draw my attention home than in football by sending me errands that will bring me home always but because I love football, I kept the passion alive and stronger. Although she never told me not to play football, her actions showed that she wanted me to be at home and to go for errands.
What are those moments you remember that give you joy and make you feel fulfilled?
My Football career was a sweet journey. First of all, I was very happy that football took me to Egypt. I never knew that Egypt is a country in Africa. I only heard Egypt in the Bible and saw it as a place outside the world. When I went to Egypt, I was able to see some of those things we heard in the Bible story like the Pyramid and the Nile. We were taken to the pyramid and we wrote our name there. We were also taken to the Christendom and the Nile. I saw the Nile and the pebbles inside the Nile.
In Libya, I saw the Former Prime Minister of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. In Uganda, we had a handshake with the Former President of Uganda, Idi Amin. I wouldn’t have gone to France if it wasn’t football. Another most important and happy moment was when we defeated Egypt in Nigeria. They defeated us with 3-1 in their country and in return, we defeated them with 3-0. This is why the late commentator, Ernest Okonkwo said, ‘Mehalla saw Wahala’. The Egyptians are really good and crafty players. My football experience was really remarkable.
What about your challenging moments?
It happened when we went to Senegal in 1976. We defeated the Police of Senegal and we were manhandled and beaten to stupor. The Police of Senegal dealt badly with us after the match. I can remember the late commentator, Ernest Okonkwo who was shouting, saying ‘Nigeria, my people are been manhandled and beaten. Look at Christian Chukwu, he has been beaten to stupor while Achebe is man- handled here, late Matthias Obianika….’ They went up there where he was commenting on the match and gave him a very big blow at his chick. It was really terrible and his mouth was really swollen. This made us to travel back to Nigeria that same night. Another thing about sports is the issue of injury. Sports is really challenging because once you have injury, there is another person who can take your place and position immediately. You can be easily dumped when you have injury.
How many are you in the family?
Presently, I am the head of the family. I am the man representing the family. I lost my elder brother 10 years back. I am the only man among the five surviving children. In all, I am the fifth out of eight members in my family.
Apart from Football, what are your other hobbies?
I am a good singer and a good dancer. I am a dramatist. I have been in the film industry with Ikem Owoh (Osuofia). I acted the first ‘Things Fall Apart’ with Peter Edochie and I played the role of a town crier in the movie. I performed ‘Akuko n’egwu’ with Bolaji, Joe Onyekwelu and some others. I acted ‘Ikoro’ and I performed as a drunkard. It was of recent that I backed out because I had too many commitments. It was fun all the way even though we did our shows, dramas and movies in an amateur way when compared to the professional way it is been done now.
So what year did you marry?
I got married and wedded on 3rd April, 1982 at Enugu.
How many children are you blessed with?
I had four children but lost a boy. Presently, I have three children (a boy and two daughters)
So, what’s your favorite colours?
I am a lover of colours and I choose whatever comes my mind. I love red and black
Is any of them into sports?
No. They didn’t have the opportunity
What’s your favorite meal?
I love Egusi soup very well.
You have been into sports for some reasonable time, what are your advice to the State and Federal Government on sports?
First of all, I want to commend the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano who has elevated sports in the state. Our people are so focused in embracing the European Sports and leaving the local sports to die off. During our time, we had Rangers, IICC, Stationery Stores, Might Jets, Iwuanyawu and to mention a few. But now, they are no more and even the Rangers club is not as attractive anymore as it was before. Our people here don’t encourage local sports and this is why our local sports and football is not spiced like the European Football. We have Nigerians playing for other countries because of the way they are properly managed. Our governor has a listening ear and this is why we are regrouping through the Obiano Football Club to begin a new spring of Football. Also, some clubs are not doing very well because of lack of funds and finance. We are calling on good spirited individuals to help in raising funds for our young ones. Anambra State is made up of footballers and this is why Anambra State has majority of the population of the Rangers Team. Anambra is a home for football and we have the likes of Onyeanwuna, Dr Egbonu, Okala, Achebes’. These people made the Nigeria Football victorious. We cannot do without Football and it will be of great help if rich individuals could consider the welfare of our Football players. This will also help to resurrect Football in Anambra state.
At the federal level, sports is really disappointing. The Head of Sports in Nigeria doesn’t worth to be there at all. It is very improper to put a round peg into a square hole. We have many stars in Nigeria who have played football in Nigeria and are well experienced but are not given the position to occupy at the state and even at the federal level most especially. In the selection of State Commissioners and Ministers for Sports, Nigeria operates in a level that anything can fit. Many State Commissioners and even the current Minister for Sports do not have any idea of sports neither have they played Football. This is why it will be difficult for them to know the place it pinches players and coaches and address them with their experiences. Why didn’t they make great Nigeria players like Odegbami, Christian Chukwu, Onyeanwuna, Okala, Joe Aniedobe and other well experience players as Ministers? Why give a Medical Doctor to be in charge of carpentry? It’s very improper and unjust. Our leaders are in position primarily because they want to loot money. The government should learn to give to those the cap fits.