By Jacob Ajom,
One of Nigeria’s most celebrated central defenders in the 1980s Godwin Odiye has divulged one of his long-kept secrets when he disclosed that at the beginning of his association with his former teammate and captain, Christian Chukwu, who was his roommate at the national team camp, he did not know his partner.
Odiye said this while contributing to the programme, “The Sports Parliament’ on NTA Thursday night, put together by a member of the 1980 AFCON winning Green Eagles squad, Segun Odegbami in celebration of his former captain and Nigeria’s most celebrated footballer, Christian Chukwu who turned 70, a few days earlier.
Odiye recalled, “Each time we retired to our room he (Chukwu) hardly talked. Indeed, even during a conversation, he spoke very little,” adding, “initially, I thought he didn’t like me.”
But that was the man Chukwu, described severally by the numerous stars of African football who participated in the programme as a gentleman, a worthy ambassador of the game of football.
Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, a former captain of the Super Eagles said he had fun memories of Christian Chukwu whom he watched play and captained his childhood club, Rangers International of Enugu as a young boy. “I learned a lot from him. Incidentally, I grew up to play for Rangers and he was my coach at the national team. He was always calm even in the face of very serious issues, he remained calm but diplomatic in handling the issues at stake.”
Also contributing, Ghana internationals, Abedi Pele and Anthony Baffoe could not hide their admiration for Chukwu. Praising Segun Odegbami for the initiative of celebrating Chukwu, Baffoe said, “It’s great to be called upon to join in the celebration of one of Africa’s legends in the game. That is how legends should be celebrated. I loved Chukwu when he was playing. I remember how he Captained Nigeria to the 1980 AFCON triumph. He was a great player.”
On his part, Abedi recalled how Chukwu led Nigeria to the 1978 AFCON in Ghana. “Because I was doing well as a youth player, I had free tickets to watch all the AFCON matches. I am honoured to be among those celebrating him today and we are still alive to witness this day.”
Ivorian legend, Yaya Toure, former Captain of the Zambian national team, Kalusha Bwalya, Dudu Orumen, Chuks Ugwuoke who represented the Governor of Enugu State and Mr Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra state were also on the show, conveying messages of goodwill to Chukwu.
Writing on the programme on his Facebook wall, Dudu Orumen, who was one of the ‘Parliamentarians’ said, “Its a night to remember as we joined Nigerians and the Football world to celebrate a great footballer, one of the very best Nigeria has produced. He led by example, wore the Eagles Eagles Captain’s armband with pride and commitment, never involved in camp and selection politics, never engaged in controversies.
A most amiable man and a living legend who l first saw play football in the East Central State Academicals Team of 1971 which featured School Boys Football greats like team captain Godwin Ogbueze, Obed Ariri, Tony Uzoka, Patrick Ekeji, Dominic Ezeani, Kenneth Ilodigwe and keeper Ahamefula Umelo and co, and l saw in many other matches for the Eagles, epic Club Football battles for his club Enugu Rangers International against IICC Shooting Stars and Bendel Insurance FC.”