Former Inter Allies football club of Ghana striker, Godfrey Aondoaseer Utim has said his decision to leave St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary Makurdi to play professional football was not an easy one. In this interview with Trust Sports, the product of DreamFoot Academy and Galaxy Sports International spoke on how he fought to convince his parents to allow him play professional football, his move to the Ghanaian Premier League and how COVID-19 pandemic aborted his dream of moving to Europe from Inter Allies FC.
The maiden edition of the Galaxy Sports Invitational tournament just ended. How satisfied are you with your performance?
I must first of all thank the Chairman and CEO of Galaxy Sports International, Mr. Austin Akpehe for this rare opportunity for us to be scouted by reputable football agents from Belgium. It was a huge success and I thank God that some of us who distinguished ourselves were selected for the final match which we played against JM Liberty. Personally, I am satisfied with my performance. I am waiting for the final verdict from the scouts through our chairman. I believe that the outcome will be good.
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How did you start your football career?
It is a long story but I will summarise it this way. I am from a football family so playing the game is a natural thing. I started right from the time I finished learning how to walk. I continued to play in my primary school till I got into the St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary Makurdi to be trained as a catholic priest. I was doing very well in school but along the line, I couldn’t resist the urge to play professional football. However, it was not easy to convince the school and my parents, especially my mum, to accept my request to leave the seminary. As a devout Christian and staunch catholic, she vehemently opposed my decision. She found it hard to believe that her dream for me was slipping away. But in the end, my parents want their children to be happy, so they gave their blessings for me to pursue my professional career in football. So I left the seminary in 2017.
Years have rolled by, yet you aren’t where you would want to be. Do you at times regret your decision to leave the seminary?
To be honest, it is too early in the day to begin to think of regret. There is no cause to regret because I know that it is only a matter of time. Most importantly, I have the blessings of my parents. After I convinced them to allow me to play professional football, they have been most supportive. I know that sometimes, my mum worries a bit but I know what her thoughts are. It has not been easy for her but what I know is that God is not going to disappoint us. I believe that very soon, we shall have cause to celebrate.
Don’t you think some people will feel you refused to serve God?
Yes, people will always think and say things according to their perceptions. Personally, I know that I am still serving God. I didn’t refuse to serve God. As a matter of fact, I am in football to serve God. For now, I am not standing on the altar of God to serve him but I am doing so in the field of football. As a Christian, I preach by my exemplary behaviour on and off the field of play. I am happy that even my teammates indirectly compliment my good conduct. I feel that as a child of God, I should shine the light anywhere I find myself. So to answer your question, I am serving God, I will continue to serve Him and I will never depart from him. God knows what is in my heart. Already, I have already mapped out how I will return to God to thank him for his blessings. I remain the ‘priest of football’. That’s how my guardian calls me.
After you left the seminary, how did you become a professional player?
My journey to professional football began when I was spotted by someone who came around to watch a local competition we were playing somewhere in Makurdi. I never knew that someone was watching me but I gave my best performance. Immediately after the match, he came to commend me. He also promised to keep in touch with me. I never knew he was serious until he came to meet my mother with a request that he wanted me to be allowed to play football. As a matter of fact, he is the one who persuaded my parents to change their mind about my interest in professional football. When he got my parents’ approval, he handed me over to his friend, Mac Imenger, a former footballer, who is the proprietor of DreamFoot Academy in Makurdi. It was in the academy that I learnt the basics in the game. After some time, DreamFoot Academy linked me up with the Chairman of Galaxy International, Austine Akpehe who took me to Ghana where I signed a loan deal with Inter Allies FC in the aborted 2019/2020 season. I had a brief stint with the club because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the season was suspended, Mr. Akpehe had worked out some trials for me in Europe. Unfortunately, it was not possible for me to travel due to the ban on international flights. Now that normalcy has returned, I am trusting God for a breakthrough.
What did you experience during your short stay in the Ghanaian topflight?
It was an amazing experience. The truth is that Nigeria is blessed with football talents but in terms of organisation, I can say Ghana is ahead of us. The football clubs in Ghana are managed professionally. The standard of play is also high. The playing facilities are also of high quality. Nigeria has one or two things to learn from the Ghanaian league. As a matter of fact, I learnt a lot of things because most of the clubs have foreigners playing for them. Some are handled by competent European coaches.
So what is your ultimate ambition as a professional player?
I am 20 years old so I still have time to play professional football in Europe and represent Nigeria beginning with the junior national teams. God has endowed me with the potential to play for the Super Eagles. It is only a matter of time.