By Gift Okedinma
"Look at Brazilian Neymar my good friend, who just signed a new contract with PSG, will be collecting 1 million Dollars every week while am still here. Who knows I should have been like him by now."
In those days as I was growing up, i was well known in my village and beyond as the most talented footballer of that period. It was as if football was invented in my community because of me. So many nicknames were given to me due to my football prowess.
I was always booked on time whenever there was a football competitions or tournament by my community people and neighbouring ones inclusive. Occasionally, teams quarrel because of me on hearing that I will play for team A or B. The fear of me popularly known as "EQUITY" was the beginning of becoming wise in football back then. I was capable of playing two to three football matches a day and forgo eating food.
Whenever am on the pitch playing, lovers of football, both old and the young will gather just to catch a glimpse of me and my skills as I mesmerize opponents. At the end of every game/match, there will always be a chit-chat in beer palours, gatherings, etc, concerning my prolific football nature or performance. For sure, I will always come out on top during football matches. When I was in primary school, in every inter-school football competitions, my school will always preempt our victory as long as I'm on the field of play.
I later left village to Portharcourt in order to further my secondary school education. I was enrolled in Mkpolu Community Secondary School, Mike 3 Diobu, close to Rivers State University of Science and Technology PH, then cultism was the bane of that school at that period in Rivers State (that was under Peter Odili's regime). Even while I maintained my cool and was very meticulous in behaviour, still yet, i was elected as the GAME PREFECT of the school unopposed. Am talking of a school that can boast of different class of footballers from different backgrounds.
Still can't forget when i was about finishing my secondary school and owners of a club known then as GREEN STARS in my Local Government, enrolled me into their team. I still remembered being the youngest player of a particular tournament we played in that period which was organized by the government of Imo state, tagged state amateur league competition (under the regime of Ex Governor Achike Udenwa). I scored 5 goals in the tournament to emerged as the second highest goal scorer with difference of just one goal from the overall winner. I played in that tournament as a winger, operating from the flank because of my speed volume.
But in all these, my parents were never in support of me. I was suffering but i didn't give up. Some times I will sneak in and out as a small boy in order to go and play football. Atimes too, I receive serious pummeling by my father because of football. GREEN STARs football club couldn't go far due to lack of funding and when the suffering became very unbearable, i chickened out just like every other members. I suffered so much to buy myself boots and other footballing kits through greater sweat and struggle. I remembered running to my maternal home on several occasions because of my parents hard stand for me not to play football.
I was the only child of my mother up to my junior secondary school level then, before God blessed her with another male child and that made them to be over protective of me hence they thought they were doing the best for me at that time. The rest today are history. I could have used my adolescent footballing era capped with my great potentials and ability in the leather game to developed myself into one of the world most leading footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. My target, vision or dream then was to win World footballer of the year awaed (Ballon D'or)and to be the first in Africa to win it. Oooh! What a dream I had!!
My advice to every parents is never to become a dream killer to their children and their careers in the name of offering them sound education. Football profession is seen today as a poor man's business in our society, yet they are the richest. To hell with education if my child will be a born footballer like me..... Some unknown Nigerians who are plying their footballing trade abroad, even to unknown division 2 or 3 clubs anywhere in the world, at worst makes between 2 to 3 MILLION naira in Nigerian currency every, monthly, excluding other bonuses.
Look at Brazilian Neymar my good friend, who just signed a new contract with PSG, will be collecting 1 million Dollars every week while am still here. Who knows I should have been like him by now. Hmmm!
Gift Okedinma is a graduate of English and Literary Studies, Imo State University
From Oil Producing Community of Ohaji Egbema LGA of Imo State, Nigeria.