By Onochie Anibeze, Jacob Ajom
Former U16 World cup winning captain Nduka Ugbade has revealed how he narrowly lost out on being screened for the youth tournament held in China in 1985.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard Sports, Ugbade revealed how the intervention of late Secretary-General of the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria, Tony Eke gave him a chance to showcase his talent and ability.
The former defender said: “One day, about two weeks after I started joining them in training, they asked, ‘who has not played?’ Suddenly, I raised my hand, indicating that I hadn’t played. The slap I received from Ben Ekpo momentarily blinded me. It was very hot as I saw stars. He slapped me so hard that I had to run towards the gate and started crying. He pursued me and started saying in broken English, “una no de hear something. I think we don tell una make una no de come here again.
He started raining abuses on me and the women who were taking care of the ground started pitying me. They were angry at him for the treatment he meted out on me. And Tony Eke emerged from nowhere. When he saw me he asked what was happening because I was still crying with my chick in my palm. He took me and before you knew it, he said, ‘okay, I will give you chance to play.
The former U17 Flying Eagles assistant coach continued: But if you no sabi play you go go o. Dis one no be say na YSFON thing.’ I said okay sir, ok sir, drying my tears. In his own wisdom, he decided I should not play that day because I was psychologically shaken and would not be in a mood to do anything meaningful if I were allowed to play. He then asked me to come back the following day for the trial.
He said, ‘go, you no go fit play today, The next day when I reported, they started a game, again I was not selected. When Eke came and it was about fifteen minutes to the end he asked, ‘where dat boy I promised say him go play today?’ I came out. Somebody got injured, it was a trial match and as God would have it, the 15 minutes provided me the window to prove myself as I was able to create one goal by way of assistance and scored one myself.
That was how they now agreed that I could start reporting to the training ground but was not yet allowed into the camp(which was at the Games Village) in Surulere. They said, ‘make una no go camp o, so dat una no go go steal people’s tings.. De come from your home.‘ I agreed and was happy. That was how I became part of those being screened.”