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Kanu, Ikpeba may not have been the best but they made the most of their luck

IKENWA NNABUOGOR reckons luck plays a more important role in the making of successful Nigerian players than just skills…

Victor Ikpeba rose to be crowned African Footballer of the Year

The life of a Nigerian player is unpredictable, tough and most times, hard and the successful ones must thank God for making it.

The road to success is tortuous and the stories behind their successes are most times better imagined than told.

Lots of promising Nigerian players have gone into oblivion even before they hit the limelight because they were simply not as lucky as the ones that managed to keep head above water.

From playing on bare feet growing up, engaging in kick-abouts across town for some change for transport fare and feeding, hanging on to bigger players for crumbs, traveling miles for “mercenary” engagements for little cash, getting turned back countless times by coaches on trials, struggling for game time, getting frustrated by coach to making it to Super Eagles and Europe, complete the story of a Nigerian player.

Most times, it’s not all about skill or having the techniques as a player that shoot the player to the top, luck plays a huge role as evident in some who were not expected to get to the top having had mates who were far better.

Japan-based striker Peter Utaka lamented the sorry stories of some players who were his mates and equally talented as him during their youth football days.

“There were players who were even better than me when we played at UNTH, Enugu, but are nowhere to be found,” he sadly recalled.

“They have been lost in the process with little or nothing to show for their skills.

“Making it as a Nigerian player is tough and requires some luck. Not all players who made it were as good as some of their mates.”

Solomon Okoronkwo is a typical example of one of the numerous Nigerian players who mother luck smiled on to get on the groove much earlier than expected.

Enugu-born Okoronkwo had hardly settled down at the defunct Gabros to begin his professional career soon after representing his country at the Finland 2003 World Cup, when he signed for German club Hertha Berlin.

The Nnewi side had established a strong relationship with a female official of the German side who arranged to have Nnamdi Ohaka on a trial at Hertha.

Unfortunately, Ohaka fell short of expectations for the German club and the interest was dropped immediately.

The next on the line to replace Ohaka at the Hertha test was Uche “JaRule” Ugochukwu but the petit striker was reported to have been more interest in his girlfriend than the German club and failed to pass the trial.

That was how Okoronkwo, nicknamed “Papa” came into the picture, even though it was widely known that Obinna Ajoku was traded for “Papa” in the game of intrigues going on between some Gabros officials and Hertha Berlin.

Luck accompanied “Papa” to Germany and the rest is history.

There are millions of ‘Papas’ who discovered their destinies to their own surprise.

Solomon Okoronkwo was a hit at Hertha Berlin

The terrain is filled with millions of equally good players that are faced with limited opportunities to excel.

It’s mostly some kind of the fitter going extra miles and counting on mother luck to do the rest.

It’s also the same old story among other African players south of the Sahara because they all have to under rigorous processes to make it.

North Africa and to some extent, Southern Africa tend to fare better because they have better structures required to assist budding talents.

In Nigeria, players do 90 percent of the work to get to the top while the rest could come from assistance from agents, coaches and benefactors.

Were Sabo Babayaro not there for some Kaduna-born players, a player like Celestine Babayaro may not get to the top.

There are many Sabo Babayaros around that have mentored and nurtured talents to the top.

It’s tougher for the fact that majority of these players come from low class families and they most times have to endure difficulties to get the top. At this level, mother luck is heavily relied on to lift their careers.

The case of Super Eagles and Lille striker Victor Osimhen comes to mind here – he was playing street football at the poor Olusosun area of Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos, known for mountain high waste dumps, but luck played a huge one on him and today, he’s one of the most sought after youngsters in world football.

Osimhen – From the slums of Ikeja to goals, glory in France

With the help of local agent Ariyo Igbayilola, Osimhen found himself in the 2015 squad of Golden Eaglets.

There are many Osimhens at Olusosun and elsewhere in the country who are still relying on crumbs to make a living.

The “Jay Jay” Okochas, Kanus, Yobos, Emenikes, Ikpebas may not be the best around, but luck helped them get to the top despite all manners of obstacles they encountered on the way. Luck is important.

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