My first wife walked away and they once gave my second wife only four months to live; I cried to God and He wiped away my pains with this baby, heartrending story of a former Super Eagles star
By Egufe Yafugborhi
Currently Man Of God, South African based Ex-Nigerian International, Idah Peterside, in a chat with Vanguard, had a hard time finding the right words to express the joy of putting the pains of ten years of childlessness behind him and wife, Iyenemi, after the first wife walked out unceremoniously. He also peeped into his days in active football.
The founder of South African based Christ Ambassadors Church, aside being a captivating SuperSports football analyst for the past 17 years, many, especially among the younger generation, hardly remember that Idah Peterside was one time one of Nigeria’s best goalkeepers.
He recalled, “I was Player, Goalkeeper of the Year like three times in the Pepsi League they called it in those days. I started my career with Sharks FC of Port Harcourt, in my home Rivers state in 1989. We were in Division 3 at the time and we propelled Sharks from that bottom level all the way to Div 1. From Sharks, I continued in the Premier League with NNPC, in Warri. Then I moved to Udoji. In all these places, I was first choice Goalkeeper.
“The record transfer at the time was N60,000 (sixty thousand Naira). It was me who secured it. From Udoji I went to Rangers. It was in Rangers everything changed. Everybody started calling me. As goalkeeper, I contended with Alloy Agu, David Ngodiga, Willie Okpara, Agbonibare, Ike Shorumu, Rufai as contemporaries. It was a fierce competition. You needed to be on top of your game to get counted at the top.
“That time in Rangers, there was a revolution of revival to restore the good old Rangers. We were coming back. Me, Emmanuel Okala and others were in the heart of this revolution. Christian Chukwu and Westerhorf were then leading the National Team and we (Rangers) were number one on the list of target national team call ups. You then had Stationery Stores, Wilkie Tourist and Elkanemi Warriors prominent atop the league as well.
“We were getting the stadia filled – fifty, sixty thousand spectators in the league matches. That was how I got invited to the National Team, myself, Ike Shorumu were invited as local based goalkeepers. It was tough my brother, very tough.
Foray Into South Africa League
At the point he got invited to the National Team, Peterside played a few games, not so many of competitive games. “You couldn’t”, he narrated, “play many of big games because the big stars were there. Then I went to BCC Lions where I got contract interest to go to play South Africa’s top side, Amazulu.
“That was about 1994. BCC Lions wanted $40,000 to release me. Amazulu said they didn’t have that kind of money, so I came back angry about what BCC Lions did. I had served them for three years and I wanted to go. So I left and started playing for Iwanyanwu Nationale. From Iwanyanwu I came to Eyimba. In those days, you didn’t change clubs because you were sacked or unfit. You switch teams because you were sought after.
“So from Eyimba I got a call to come for trials in Israel. I was there for six months with a team called Macabe Hezillia, but I really didn’t play for the Israeli club, again because of transfer tussles. From Macabe, I went to South Africa, now in 1999 and signed for Tembisa Classic. From Tembisa, I then moved to Swallows.
“It was at this point I got injured, in 2005. While nursing the injury, the TV people were calling me to come do commentaries and analyses as I wasn’t playing due to the injury. From honouring their invitations, I got a contract. So I started working for SuperSports.
Stock on South Africa soil post retirement
“Remember”, he further recalled, “SuperSport was growing rapidly. Though there was no physical presence in Nigeria, myself, Thomas Mlambo, Emeka Anyamdike, came from South Africa to establish SuperSports in Nigeria. SusperSports with DSTV has become a global brand.
“I had just retired, didn’t make a lot of morney playing football. The money I started making in SuperSports was like a person who left the football field for the office with another kind of salary. It was good for me. If I had made a lot of money like the Jay Jays and the Kanus, I might have come home to invest in big hotels and properties.
Goalkeepers as unsung heroes in the past
Just like today, what you get with football contracts depended much on the country and league you played for in the active days of Peterside. Beyond that however, “In those days too”, he further recalled, “goalkeepers were the least paid in the business.
“Strikers were the most rewarded, then they paid a bit more attention to defenders, before they started paying midfielders. Now they pay goalkeepers good too, so there is balance. You can now hear somebody like De Gea talking about £300,000 per week. That’s the highest anybody can get tendering the posts.
“The playing field is getting a little bit level now, but those days, goalkeepers were the least recognised in any team in the world. So, in all honesty I didn’t make enough money to even build a house. I could afford a car, couldn’t build a house. Unexpectedly when I went into football-casting, everything changed. The money I was making from my engagement was bigger than I was being paid on the field of play.
“So, it wasn’t a hard decision not returning to Nigeria to beg for food. Again, I had stayed in the country (South Africa) for close to six years, secured a resident permit and could live anywhere in the country without stress. And that was the period I first got married.
Harrowing experience with marriage
Retelling Peterside’s marriage to a South African invoked sad memories. “We are talking about 2002”, he reluctantly opened the flashback. “About same period I started a church ministry. We started the ministry together, but the marriage didn’t work. We didn’t have children. It was a big issue and she decided to divorce me. She left and as a Pastor who had started a church, I continued.
I told myself I needed to pray fervently for renewal of marriage life. I needed the second chance to be with a woman who understood me, my culture. I noticed cultural conflict was part of challenges that came up with the bitter first experience. So I came to Nigeria and met my companion who turned out to be the wife I truly needed. Since then everything has changed, for good.
Taking to full time ministry
“I had attended Bible School while in Nigeria. I was a devout Christian. For those who remember, I started the campaign, “Use A Condom” that became a mass movement in the country. People wondered how a football player, as many were known to be flirty, was leading such a reformist campaign. I saw the promiscuous life footballers were living and HIV/AIDS and the danger around it was becoming a big global issue at the time.
“I was imagining how these young people would kill themselves. And that time, 1996, I had given my life to Christ, with the Winners Chapel. So, I got through Bible school with a divine vision to go into church ministry. And a friend of mine, a Pastor in Winners at that time told me I couldn’t do it.
“He said God told him to talk me to consider the ministry later, that I still have a lot of football to offer. I thanked that very friend. Pastor John, I continue to thank you. He came to meet me in South Africa to give that passionate advice. And my football career blossomed more from that point. I played for Nigeria, travelled overseas, an opportunity that hitherto didn’t come my way and there was still the conviction that there was a great call of God in my life.
“While playing with Amazulu in South Africa, God revealed to me that I would return to that same country later and start a ministry. It took about seven, eight years for that revelation to manifest. So I started the ministry, Christ Ambassadors Church, in South Africa. God has just blessed up with a 4000 seater auditorium. We have our own TV Channel, Ambassador TeleVision, ATV. And the icing on the cake of God blessings in me, blessings my wife was the gift of a child after ten years in marriage.”
Broken marriage depressing, not much toll on the church though
“The toll on me, when my first marriage failed, was hard because the woman was in the ministry with me and everybody knew I didn’t do anything so wrong to have caused her wanting out. I did not divorce her. She said she wanted to go her way. We called the church leadership to see what was happening. Everybody, counselors spoke to her, but she refused. She told the church, this man has not done anything, but I can’t just continue in this marriage. I don’t love him anymore, I’ve fallen in love with somebody else and she left, just like that.
“The ministry had just a population of 80 then, so it didn’t affect us as a church much. They say you can’t keep a horse that doesn’t want to stay. Even in football, it makes sense anytime a player wants to go, you sell him. You can’t keep an unhappy player and expect him to give you results. You would have problems. That was how that episode ended painfully then.”
Starting all over amidst depression
Even when the first wife walked away without voicing any cogent reason, Peterside could tell that, “One of the things that went wrong with the first marriage was conflict of cultures. You know these Oyibo people behave differently. Family members can’t come to your house. Let’s travel to Nigeria, wahala.
“I then decided I must marry from my own place. A companion who could speak pidgin English with me, who when I say I need Okazi soup, she would not fire back with ‘what’s Okazi’ soup? If I need Banga soup, they won’t ask me what that means. And God gave me the real woman I needed for a wife. You won’t understand how it feels, the happiness of having the wife I wanted.
“My friend who just walked in flew into South Africa and spent one whole month with me following the shock divorce I had with the first marriage. I was depressed as a man. I asked myself, what did I do? Was I not man enough? My friend came timely and assured me, to say God would give you a wife that would love you.
“Eleven years ago, God gave me that wife, Iyenemi. Emi came along and took away the pains. I no longer carry any memory of the life with my Ex-Wife. I stand before God to say this. God brought my wife and deleted every picture of my pains. So many times when you ask about details with the first experience, I hardly can remember.
How precious Emi come along
Overwhelmed with the turn of events for good, Peterside hardly could explain how he met his Emi. “When you are filled with the kind of joy in my heart”, he puts it, “it’s difficult to replay how I met her. Maybe it is better told herself. That’s probably her own part of the story, but we got married, July 29 eleven years ago. I met her in February and in three months, she had become my wife. I was happy enough to marry a woman after three months and there is no regret having it so.
“Then we started together with the church thing. The church was growing in thousands, but then we had our own challenges. She had issues with health, that even the doctors told us, my wife would die in four months. As a man of faith I cried to God, to say why? The first one walked away, so you want to take the second one too?
Enduring childlessness, health scare
Different kinds of challenges following joyful appearance of Emi in Peterside’s life provoked fresh worries. “You know”, he had feared, “they would say something is wrong with me because I told myself I can’t marry again if something goes wrong again, third marriage in how many years? And God kept my wife’s life. The sickness took toll on her, affected me too, so it became difficult, again, to have children.
“We cried to God, fasted, gave seeds. We did everything we knew to do until God answered. 17 August last year, my beautiful, angel daughter came along and took away all the pains from me and the great woman that is my wife. So we are here in Port Harcourt to celebrate the baby’s dedication. We said we must come home to our families, to our roots where people laughed at us, mocked us and said different things over the challenging period.
“For all reading my story, it doesn’t matter how long an issue drags, there is always a date of expiration. Every problem will expire one day. Ours expired August 17 last year. We endured ten years of shame, because in our Church, miracles, healing, wonders, divine, happen.
“Under that atmosphere, people accused me of using my body, my wife to do juju. The scandal was killing. People back home may not have felt it much here because we were in South Africa. The pressure, allegations were faith threatening. To share a touching story, my father-in-law, as I was paying the bride prize for my wife, asked me to give him a bottle of brandy.
“I submitted it to him, a choice S O brandy. Then he said to me, I will not drink this brandy. It will remain on the shelf. When my grandchild comes, then I will open it to celebrate. So you can imagine, that every time you visited you father-in-law, he points to the shelf and say ‘we never drink dis brandy oo, your S O is still here oo’.
“That was the reminder that everyone was getting disturbed with the waiting for a baby. It was so depressing. So after we got the baby, father-in-law called and said, ‘I don call my friends oo, as I dey tell you we don open the brandy my son. We don open the S O. It is unbelievable. We are grateful to God.
“You know when you are a known figure, I am not saying I am a star, your news is everywhere. Every little thing happens, people hear. When my wife got sick, news. No children news. Divorce, scandal. So I have been telling all, there is another news now. I would not keep quiet. If news of bad things happening are told, the news of the good things happening now must be more.
So we are celebrating the goodness of God. My wife was paralyzed for eight months. It was that bad. The story had different branches, but God in His mercies put the different angles together to make a joyful testimony.
More time invested in family life and church ministry now, hardly any more appearances on SuperSports football screens
“Everybody has been calling, where is Peterside? I am there, still there. I told the people in the studio I am committed for now until God gives me the release and freedom to move again real time. The church work is enormous as people can see.
Disposition to recurring vibes of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa
“We totally condemn it and I have never been afraid to speak up. I speak critically about it. I have been on radio, television in South Africa, that what is wrong is wrong. We are humans, beyond that, all Africans. I tell them we (Nigeria) helped your country during apartheid days. Nations around the world supported you, so what you are doing now is very unethical, so wrong.
“We are making progress, coming hard on the government of that country. There is a law now, much like the law on apartheid, that applies to xenophobia. It has become a crime to display xenophobic tendencies same way it is to show apartheid tendency. So, we are really pushing the government to take a hard stance.
We’ve always said the South African government must educate their people. South Africans hardly travel. They are so comfortable in their own environment. They don’t travel out much, but a whole lot of them are beginning to understand the value of global harmony as they push out. A lot of then are beginning to invest and do business in Nigeria and other parts of the world. We are making progress.