By Uche Enem
Paul Chike Obiakor hails from Umudioka Village in Awka, Anambra State. He was born in Gboko, Benue State on 12th December, 1957. He started his Primary School at St. John's Catholic School, Gboko, but when the war broke out, he returned to Anambra State and completed his Primary School at St. Faith's, Awka . Because of sports, Paul, gained full scholarship during his Secondary School days at Igwebuike Grammar School and Christ the King College, Onitsha, where he finished his Secondary School. All through his sports life, he has actively participated in various competitions ranging from Football, Volley Ball and Basket Ball. Dear readers, I hope you find his story impacting.
Why did you suddenly change from Igwebuike to CKC?
Because of football, we were very much needed by many schools. I left Igwebuike Grammar School for CKC after playing against CKC In 1976. In 1977, I was in CKC to finish my Secondary School because of Rev. Fr. Tagbo and to prepare for my WASCE. Notwithstanding, I was so much admired by Rev. Fr. Tagbo of the Blessed Memory. He was always showering me with gifts and asking me if I needed anything. He calls me by my nick name 'Dakota' and I can remember some occasions he gave me uniforms and sandals.
Why were you nicknamed Dakota?
During my Geography class, I read through some places called Northern and Southern Dakota. The name actually gave me joy and so I was tagged 'Dakota'
What inspired you to go into sports?
I was born into sports. I played Football, Volley Ball and Basket Ball. I was good at these three games. The environment also influenced me into loving sports. Back then, we had many Irish people who were in Nigeria and they encouraged and developed us into loving sports. They also organized and sponsored some matches. In Football, once you have the skills, you will be admired by most people.
Can you share more about your sports life?
When we came back from World Cup in 1977 at Dublin, the Federal Government and CKC Old Boys Abroad, gave us scholarship. When I finished from CKC in 1979, I was selected by Rangers to join Rangers. Rangers selected some of us while some others went to Vasco Da Gama Team. I would have been one of the pioneers of BCB Lions because James Peters who was one of the Coaches in Green Eagles insisted that I should come to BCB because I was fluent in Tiv language. It wasn't easy for me to make such decision because Rangers Team also wanted me too. Rangers was so competitive at that time because it had many Nigeria Stars there like Loveday Osadebe, Okala and his brother etc. I came into Rangers as a school leaver and I was one of the youngest in the team. I was always encouraged by the team members to follow in their matches and get exposed to Football.
After we lost the WAFU Cup to Senegal in 1980, the Nigeria Coach Otto Gloria with one other Naval officer (I can't recall his name) marked us as people who will join the Green Eagles Camp. The first day I went to the camp, I saw many Nigeria goalkeepers like Chidi Okpala, Peter Rufai, Baba Ahmed, Best Ogedegbe and many others. After Best Ogedegbe, I believe I was the second best. Best Ogedegbe was one of the oldest players and most experienced in the team.
After training for about 3 weeks, we travelled to Brazil in 1980 in preparation for 1982 World Cup that was hosted in Spain. Iwas player in Rangers, when we won the Challenge Cup and National League many times. In 1989, the General Manager of the team who is now the Ezeuzu II of Awka, HRH Gibson Nwosu, encouraged me to join ASESA Football Team. I was a player cum coach. Later Christian Chukwu and Harrison Okagbue also came in as coach to the team. We were in the team till the creation of new Anambra State and Enugu State in 1991. I was at the Ministry of Sports after the creation of States during which I was engaged in sports development by grooming younger Football players in the rural areas. I groomed so many players from the State and we engaged in many competitions especially the South East Games. We won so many trophies in these South East Competitions.
Later on, I joined TRACAS Football Team in 2000 as a Coach. The General Manager (GM), Ilonze Ndigwe, really did his best to uplift the team. TRACAS nurtured many players. After the GM left, it became the end of TRACAS.
At the ministry where I worked, I was posted to Onitsha South LGA. At Onitsha, I trained so many traders especially Obosi traders and they did well in their competitions. Later on, I was posted to Awka to handle Secondary School Competitions. Later on, I became the Chief Coach of Football in Anambra State in 2006 till 2014 when I retired.
Paul's Volley Ball experience…
I started playing Volley Ball at a tender age. I represented East Central State in many competitions and participated in the 2nd National Sports Festival in 1975. This was the same time General Muritala Mohammed was toppled and we were camped at Alvan Ikoku, Owerri. During this period, we received information that every contingent must report to Lagos for the Sports Festival within 24hrs. I represented East Central States in Volley Ball in 1975 and we brought home Bronze Medal. Immediately we came back from the World Cup at Dubin, I represented the East Central States in Volley Ball and we won Silver Medal in 1977 after losing to Bendel Insurance. The 1979, Oluoye Competition in Ibadan was the final game I participated in as Volley Ball player.
Paul's Basket Ball Experience…
I played Basket Ball during my Secondary School Days at Igwebuike Grammer School and we were the champions as at that time in Anambra State Basket Ball. I was the Guard in Basket Ball and I had so many skills. Basket Ball and Volley Ball helped me a lot in goal keeping because it is all about jumping and grabbing.
What position did you play in Football?
I was a defender; I played position 2 and 3 because I was versatile and skilled.
When did you retire in active Football?
I retired in 1998.
Thanks for reading! In our next edition, we will look at his fulfilling and challenging moments in sports and what he has to say about sports development.
To be continued