Revealed: The zero to hero story of Eagles’ defender…
By EMMA NJOKU
Coach Erasmus Onuh has beaten his chest with pride and fulfillment over what he described as a huge landmark in the football career of Warri Wolves and Super Eagles’ home-based defender, Azubuike Egwuekwe. Egwuekwe is among the 23 Super Eagles’ players that were rewarded with land, cash and national honours by President Goodluck Jonathan for winning the last Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
The team has continued to receive more cash rewards from state governors, corporate firms and well-meaning Nigerians in appreciation of its glorious outing at the continents biggest soccer showpiece. Although he did not taste action at the tournament, Egwuekwe played a prominent role in the Nigerian team during the qualifiers.
The towering defender, who currently plies his trade with Warri Wolves Football Club in the domestic league, in an earlier interview with Saturday Sunsports in Calabar, had not only expressed surprise at the opportunity of playing in the national team, but also expressed deep gratitude to Coach Stephen Keshi for giving him a chance even when many would not reckon with him as a footballer.
Onuh, who claimed to have given Egwuekwe his first major career opportunity at OUK United of Umuahia, revealed that the central defender hardly could trap the ball when he came for screening while he was at the helm of technical affairs at the Umuahia-based National League side. “I almost lost my job at OUK United because of Azubuike,” the confident diminutive tactician began in a chat with Saturday Sunsports. “When he (Egwuekwe) came to OUK, he could hardly trap the ball.
In fact, the then chairman of the club, Chief Iboko, after watching him at training, threatened me with a sack if I failed to send him away. But I told the chairman that Egwuekwe was the life wire of my team. “The truth is that the player was a raw talent when he came to my team at OUK. Ifeanyi Onuigbo, one of my best players at OUK United then, brought him to the club. But unlike Ifeanyi, who was very skillful, Egwuekwe had no skill.
But I noticed that he was very good with aerial balls. So, I took time to train him on basic skills of the game and I’m happy that he has become a national hero today. He is a good example of the proverbial dry tree that was expected to fall, but ended up outliving the ones that hitherto had green leaves. “Egwuekwe is only one of the many raw talents that I have transformed into stardom.
I’m proud to say that I played a major role in his career success story today. If I had listened to the chairman of OUK then, Azubuike would probably not have been a national hero today,” Onuh reasoned.