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My dad wanted me to excel in football but… – Okaro

By KATE OBODO

Growing Up

I came from a humble background, my father was a police officer and a member of the police football team in the early 50s. He began his police career in Lagos before he was later transferred to the then eastern region  in 1960 where he worked all through until the outbreak of the civil war and retired in 1970, immediately after the  war ended.

Though I was  born and brought up in Lagos  State, my parents hailed  from Ogidi, in Anambra State. I attended my Primary and Secondary schools in Lagos. Later, I proceeded to  Obafemi Awolowo University, where I studied Physical Education.

In 1981, I got enlisted in the Nigerian army and served in various capacities while in service. Before retiring  in 2009,  I put in  19 years, most of which I spent  in the northern part of the country. I retired  as the Commandant of the Nigerian Army Sports Camp, Lagos.

Childhood memory

While growing up, I was a bit rascally because I was fond of playing football. Then, my father was the station officer in Adekunle Police station, Lagos. As a child, I would go to the Evans Square with my pals to play football. Most times I did not go unpunished as my father would either  flog me or detain me in the  police cell.

*Gen. Brigadier Emmanuel Chukwudi Okaro (Rtd)

Surprisingly, when I entered Secondary School,  my father purchased my first UK made boot called ‘Gola.’ And each time, I wore the boot to the school, all my classmates would want to borrow it from me.

Really, it was fun and my father’s gesture encouraged my interest in football. My father did everything to see that I  excelled  in the game. Unfortunately, I didn’t go far in football.

Romance with football

Like I  said earlier, my late father inspired my interest in football.  He was a fantastic footballer. In fact, it was as a result of his talent in football that he was  recruited into the Police Force. While he was playing for government school in Awka in those days, the colonial police spotted him and brought him to Lagos where he played for the Police machine team.

I remember vividly as he used to talk about Manchester United.During my Secondary School days,  I played  with footballers like Tunde Martins, and other great names from St. Finbarr’s College.  I got more involved in football while I was in the university. I happened to be  among the team that played the final match of the Africa University Games.

Also my dad’s position in the Police Force gave me an edge over my peers. Then I was leading  the football  supporters group each time the Police Machine team was playing at the Onikan stadium.  I would mobilise my pals in all the barracks to support the team. My growing up was eventful and my life was centered around football and sports irrespective of the fact that I was a military officer.

My Kind of dress

I like wearing suits to social functions. Sometimes, I go for corporate wears like long sleeve shirts, ties and good trousers. At cultural events, you could see me in  native attires. My mood also dictates what I wear. If I want to attend  a party, I go for   simple and comfortable outfits like jeans and T-shirt.

Actually, I dress to look nice and perhaps, not to impress anybody

Me and Women
I have always loved women right from my Secondary School and University days   because of my interest in football. Then in the University, campus  girls would always want to mingle with me because of my comportment and performance in the game.

While I was in service, I had male and female students who admired me so much because of the way I dressed.  In the military, if you don’t dress appropriately, you can’t attract attention. For me, dressing  very well was one of my hobbies.

Meeting my Wife

Contrary to what people think about military men, I believe they are the most loved people in the whole world. Some women  may not like  soldiers and I don’t know what is the cause but I know that most women  love to be in the company of military officers.

When I met my wife, it was nothing much of a stress. She liked me because of the way I dressed as a soldier and when I made advances to her, she quickly accepted me. Our  marriage has produced two girls and three boys.  Most of them have graduated from different Universities in the country. My third child is  following my footsteps because he is now in the Army.

Smoking and drinking

While in the military, I was a heavy smoker but  I dumped the habit 10 years ago. Actually, I stopped smoking while I was playing Golf at the Ikoyi Club. Sometimes, when we  tee-off from hole one before we get to hole 18, I would have finished a packet of cigarette.

It was as a result of the  tension involved in the game especially when money was involved.  I continued my  smoking habit until one day after the game, I coughed and some black substances came out of my system. I looked at it and felt that I could be  suffering from cancer. That was how I stopped  smoking.

Relaxation

I relax more by playing golf. It is a game of life and can be  played even at one’s old age. I played tennis and football but I came to realise  that at a stage in one’s life, the urge of playing both games won’t be there anymore.

To stay active in sports, I chose the game of  golf. Right now, I play off 17 handicaps as an amateur golfer at the Ikoyi Club 1938 where I became a member since 1992.

For me, by  playing golf  I have  learned to be humble.  I can associate with anybody but most times I associate with people that are older than me.  Golf  is a game where you see different attitudes and if you are not a humble person, you  won’t be able to play the game. In golf, you find very erratic people and your ability to cope with them shows the man in you.

My best meal/fruit

My best food is rice and beans with plantain. My best  fruit is banana and groundnuts. I like banana because of the Iron it contains which is good for the bone.


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