By Akeem Busari
The craze for professional football was not rife in the early 80s in Nigeria. However, several Nigerians gave it a good shot. That was the era of Nigerian football innocence.
Regarded as one of the best players ever produced by Nigeria, Segun Odegbami, remarkably came close to winning the honours as Africa’s best player, coming third and second in the rankings on two different occasions. And it was widely argued that he would have been awarded the title in 1984, if he had won that year’s African Champions Cup with his team, IICC Shooting Stars.
Regrettably, too, he never took his game beyond the African horizon. A former African Cup Winners Cup champion with Shooting Stars in 1976, interestingly, Odegbami was teammates in the awe- inspiring Green Eagles of that era with the likes of Tunji Banjo, John Chidozie, who played professional football in England.
As a prominent member of the 1980 African Nations Cup squad, that included Okey Isima and Slyvanus Okpala who also played professional soccer in Portugal, the fast paced Jos born winger remained unfazed by the allure of taking his soccermanship to the foreign lands.
In an exclusive interview with Sports Chronicle Magazine’s Editor, Akeem Busari, he remarked that he was never short of opportunities to take his career to the professional level.
He recalled that he once went for trials with top English Premier league side, Tottenham Hotspurs. He never played a game. Not for a lack of talent required, because he was immensely talented as a footballer.
” I went for trials in Tottenham Hotspurs, but never went to their grounds. I was busy enjoying myself in London city,” he revealed.
He maintains no regrets for not playing football abroad, ” No regrets because it was not common during my time. It started to flourish in my final years in football. Yes, had I seized the opportunities I had earlier, my life would have been different,” he admitted conclusively.