By Clement Nwankpa
Abia Warriors have just confirmed the signing of box-to-box midfielder, Paul Onobi as a free agent after his time at KuPs of Finland in what could be termed a transfer coup. The question posed by many is: How did Warriors chairman, Emeka Inyama pull this one through?
If Onobi’s availability was made public there would have been a scramble for his signature and Warriors could have been outdone by some of the continental campaigners. But in a move akin to the club signing Stanley ‘Little Messi’ Okoro last year, Warriors kept everything in wraps till the deal was done.
Onobi is returning to the NPFL after claiming a deal with French giants, AS Monaco broke down. “I was not sacked by KuPs, I ran out of contract with the club after I only signed a year’s contract and after the end of the season the two parties parted ways,” he said.
“It was a big experience for me to play in Europe and above all a fantastic season in Finland. My deal with Monaco broke down after my agent and the club did not agree on terms. So, I had to come back home to play football pending when my agent gets me a suitable club in Europe. I can’t stay in Europe I need to play football because I love my job, I hate to be idle,” he added.
Suddenly, it seems Umuahia is becoming a haven for returnee national team players. It will be recalled that Okoro also linked up with Warriors after a deal fell through in Europe.
What was the attraction to Umuahia? Okoro said at the time: “When I spoke with the chairman I knew this was the right place for me to hang out till the European deal clicks. The atmosphere is okay and I like the professional touch. I also appreciate the improvement made by the league. I like it here (NPFL). It was an easy decision.”
Fast forward, a year later, Onobi will be strutting his stuff at the Umuahia Township Stadium. Onobi’s quality is a testament to the progress made by the NPFL. It is no longer all about the league losing its best legs every season, it can now attract Nigerian internationals at their peak in search of resurgence.
Just to refresh memories. About a year ago, during Sunday Oliseh’s reign as Super Eagles head coach, Onobi started the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Swaziland while a fit Mikel John Obi sat on the bench. Then starring for Sunshine Stars, he was the next big thing to come out of the domestic scene.
An all-action midfielder with bullets packed in his feet, he would move to the Finnish league. A year later, he is back, better and raring to go. Still with a lot to offer the national team. And with CHAN qualifiers around the corner, he will be such a boost to the home-based Eagles.
It should also be noted that if the deal had sailed through, this lad would have been playing for Monaco this winter. Such is the quality the NPFL has attracted back home. A pointer to the star-studded cast to be seen at league venues this season. More reason for the fans to troop to the venues and savour the best of football made in Nigeria.