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World Cup: Before Nigerians start castigating Onuoha

By Patrick Omorodion
Some Nigerians have not forgiven John Fashanu for ‘shunning’ the country’s call to play for the national team in the 80s but most of them, if not all, have no inkling why Fashanu did not play for the Green Eagles as they were then known.

Onuoha in action for Man City

Every time the issue came up, the former Wimbledon of England striker labours to state his own side of the story. He said he did not refuse to play but that he couldn’t fit into the team on the two or so occasions he honoured the invitation.

Another scenario is playing out with youthful Nedum Onuoha, a player with Manchester City Football club of England who until the arrival of Lars Lagerback never got a look in from coaches of the Super Eagles, local or foreign.
It was reported that Lagerback had talks with the young lad and he was looking forward to the invitation with glee but just days to the release of the provincial list, Onuoha begged to be left out.

Consequently reactions have started to pour in why he turned down Nigeria or why the Nigeria Football Association, NFA couldn’t get him convinced on why he should play for his country of birth.

A member of the NFA Board, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme told that the player was convinced by his mother, Dr. Anthonia Onuoha to reject the invitation but the mother also during the week denied ever speaking with any official of the NFA on her son’s World Cup issue.

Even though Saturday Vanguard sports could not get to speak with Onuoha’s mother, one man who knows the genesis of the current issue spoke to this reporter from his base in Port Harcourt on telephone.

He is Dr Ken Anugweje of the University of Port Harcourt and the current president of the Nigerian Universities Games Association, NUGA who has also served many times as a member of the national teams medical crew.

His story points to the fact that the Onuoha family may be paying back the NFA in their usual ugly and very rough coin.
According to Dr Anugweje, he was part of the nation’s contingent to the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

He said that the Nigerian community in Manchester hosted the Nigerian contingent to a reception and some Nigerians who recognised him to be close to the football house approached him to tell him of Nedum.

He said Nedum’s mother even “wrote a note to me, begging that her son should be given a chance to play for Nigeria because he wants to play for Nigeria and not England. I still have that note with me.”

He said he then went to watch Nedum train at his club and thereafter decided to tell Amanze Uchegbulam, first vice president of the NFA, who was just a committee member in 2002 that he saw a Nigerian lad in Manchester City and he should  follow him to their training to see him play and see how he could link him to any of the national teams.

Uchegbulam refused, he said, claiming that he hasn’t seen him play and that he cannot recommend anybody he hasn’t seen play.

The NUGA president said that “Nigerians should not blame Nedum for turning his back on the country. Our administrators should not wait until someone becomes a household name before recognising him,” blaming Uchegbulam for the present scenario.


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