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Eneji: A promising play maker for Super Eagles

In the beginning, all eyes were on John Mikel Obi as a possible replacement for the former Super Eagles play maker. Blessed with a good…

In the beginning, all eyes were on John Mikel Obi as a possible replacement for the former Super Eagles play maker. Blessed with a good vision and ball holding ability, Obi promised so much but since he got into the main stream of the senior national team, he has not been able to live up to his potentials. He showed the Okocha’s kind of brilliance in his days with the youth teams, especially at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Holland where the team led by Coach Samson Siasia won a silver medal for Nigeria. It is said the role assigned to him in Chelsea has reduced considerably his creative ability as he mostly does ball holding for his team.

Nigerians are still hoping for a play maker for the Super Eagles and there appears to be light at the end of the dark tunnel as a young prodigy who has just been promoted to the senior national team is showing flashes of the kind of ingenuity and mid-field coordination that were the hallmarks of Austin Jay-Jay Okacha’s days in the Super Eagles. His names are Otekpa Eneji, the 21 year old defensive mid-fielder who plays his club football for two time African Champions, Enyimba FC of Aba.

Born on February 5, 1989 to Mr Eneji and Mrs Agnes of Cross Rivers State, the immensely talented football player started his career right from his primary school days in Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State where he grew up with his parents. As is the case with most families, his parents initially opposed his choice of football as a career. However, he enjoyed the support of his other siblings who stood by him and encouraged him to play football.

When it dawned on his parents that they could not dissuade him from playing football, they reluctantly gave their consent with a condition that he must combine education with his chosen career. Although education was given priority between the two, football enjoyed greater percentage of his time.

The graduate of Government Secondary School Gboko which is famous for producing star athletes began his football career with Mighty Juniors Football Club of Gboko. Even as he was still fragile and lacked the combative ability to withstand more physical opponents, within no time, he was taken to the once dreaded BCC Lions of Gboko when the team got promotion to play in the professional league division.

In BCC Lions, Eneji proved that football requires more intelligence than raw power as he anchored the team’s mid-field without showing any sign of stage freight. From BCC Lions, he was signed by Ranchers Bees of Kaduna where he played a tremendous role in the team’s promotion to the premier league.

In the year 2007, it was home coming for the player as the management of Lobi Stars could not resist the urge to bring him back to his roots. At the time he joined Lobi Stars, he had developed enough maturity to hold his own among the big boys. He then began to receive invitations to the junior national teams. He played the 2007 FIFA U-20 qualifiers under Coach Ladan Bosso. With the required international exposure in his kitty, it was just natural for him to attract the attention of the leading club in Nigeria, Enyimba FC. Thus, in 2009, he moved from Lobi Stars to Enyimba where he has already won two trophies with the club. He has won the League and Super 4 trophies with the Peoples Elephants.

Eneji‘s blossoming career is a pleasant surprise to him as he has confessed that when he started, he never knew that by this time, he would be playing for the country at the highest level. He debuted for the country in this month’s international friendly against South Korea in Seoul where he gave a good account of himself. For him to enjoy 90 minutes of action was an indication that he impressed the team’s handlers.

The player who is a diehard fan of Manchester United of England is aiming high as he wants to become an integral member of the Super Eagles. Already, he had had his baptism of fire against a strong footballing country like South Korea and the next thing for him is to retain a firm grip on Eagles defensive mid-field role.

The challenge is enormous but he is optimistic that with hard work, he will be able to surmount all obstacles in his way. Already he has mixed with some of the foreign based players he once watched on TV and is ready to give them a good run for their money. It is his belief that as long as team selection is based on merit, he will not have any problem pegging down one of the shirts in the team

“I was shocked when I was first invited to the senior national team. Initially I was jittery but when I received the necessary pep talk from coach Austin Eguavoen, I regained my composure. I then realized that playing among the big boys is no big deal.

“Honestly, I never knew that by this time I will be where I am. God has been so kind to me and as long as He lives, I will continue to prosper in my chosen career. Playing football has added great value to my life. I am happy each time I realize the joy I have brought to my family and friends.

Eneji who is popularly known as TEXAS B among his contemporaries wants to take his skills to Europe where he hopes to play for Manchester United.

“I am an avid follower of Manchester United and it is my dream to one day play for the club which is one of the best in the whole world. If I keep playing well, one day my dream will come to pass”.

The player whose idol is Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas is looking forward to the September 5 encounter against Madagascar at the Abuja National Stadium where he hopes to prove  to doubting Thomasses that he is endowed with the requisite ability to step into the big shoes left behind by Austin Jay-Jay Okocha.

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