The Making of Chisom Chikatara

Unlike many Nigerian clubs who do not have a well structured scouting system, and thus rarely groom players or attract youngsters to their team aside those in their youth teams, Abia Warriors FC is organized and modeled after the big European clubs and to succeed, and also to be economically viable and cease from depending wholly on government for their sustenance they realize that they must put in place structures to enable them attract the best legs around their territory inorder to nurture and groom them to stardom. This approach, adopted by High Chief Emeka Inyama as soon as he took over the reins of the club, is intended to save the club transfer fees, and instead will earn the club revenue when they start selling the players whom they have discovered through their large scouting network.

It was while on one of his scouting missions for the club, at a local tournament that Coach Chijioke Osuagwu noticed a gangly young striker who knew how to put the ball in the back of the net. A former grassroots coach himself who played a big part in the discovery of players like Osaze Odemwingie, Nnamdi Oduamadi, Ifeanyi Ede and many others in Lagos, as soon as Coach Chijioke saw the nimble footed goal scorer he knew at once that this was a lad with a bright future in the game and he swung into action, doing everything possible to bring the young lad to Abia Warriors even though he had no previous experience of competitive football at any level.

That’s how Chisom Elvis Chikatara joined Abia Warriors, the rest is now history.

“I was just fresh from Government College Umuahia and playing for a grassroots club called New Generation in Umuahia when coach Chijioke Osuagwu approached me after a local tournament and told me he wanted to take me to Abia Warriors FC. At first I couldn’t believe it but when I realized he was serious I was both excited and scared. I was excited to get such an opportunity because Abia Warriors were then in the Nigeria National League and doing fine, and being an Umuahia boy it was a thing of pride to represent my hometown club. Also, I knew their players were well paid and so it meant a big chance for me to start earning a good living. However I was a bit scared because it was going to be my first taste of competitive football. The biggest level i had played before then was Shell Cup competition for my school. However, Coach Chijioke assured me that he was confident I had what it takes to break into the team and do big things. The club Chairman High Chief Emeka Inyama took me in like his own son and made me feel at home, and the rest of the players accommodated and absorbed me and I felt at home in the new atmosphere and this helped me settle down into the team.”

During pre-season, it seemed he had his work cut out getting in the team.  However, he was happy just to be in the squad, glad for the opportunity but determined to break into the team as soon as possible. He also had the soothing words of Coach Chijioke, who was the Chief Coach and second in command to Coach Ifeanyi Onyedika the technical adviser to guide him.

“I told him to work hard, stay disciplined and focused because his chance would come and he had to be ready in order to grab the opportunity with both hands,” said Coach Chijioke. “I encouraged him a lot because I have worked with youngsters  and I know how they feel when they come into a new environment and things aren’t going exactly their way. But Chisom is a special kid. Very disciplined and focused on improving his game and it soon became clear even in training that he was ready, and when his chance came, he grabbed it with both hands.”

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Born 24th November 1994, Chisom aka ‘Sompe’ was barely 18 when he joined Abia Warriors in the 2012/2013 season. Naïve, yet immensely talented, he had competition from more experienced strikers and so had to really prove himself to the Coach Ifeanyi Onyedika led technical crew.  He took little time to break into the team, making his debut in Week 1 away against Camp Of David Football Club in Lagos. In stuff made for legends,  Chisom endeared himself to Abia Warriors faithful by choosing the best moment to net his debut goal for the club- against their perennial cross city rivals Abia Comets in week 2.

After that, the youngster did not look back, grabbing goal after goal to install himself firmly as the club’s top choice striker and the fans’ favourite. He soon developed a telepathic understanding with his strike partner Peter Onyekachi. Chisom was the arrowhead top striker, and Peter was the support striker extra ordinary. While Chisom is lightweight but skillful, Peter is a big, strong and powerful striker with his own fair share of skills. Often times Peter would bulldoze his way past opposing defenses to score or to set up his strike partner to score.

Soon Coach Onyedika left the club and Coach Chijioke took over from him. Chisom’s game grew in leaps and bounds, and so did his goals as he ended the season with 14 league goals, none of them from the penalty spot. This earned him the top goal scorer of the Nigeria National League Division B.

Amongst his goals were classical finishes, like the one against Insurance of Benin in Umuahia where he controlled a long pass skillfully and with one quick flick escaped his marker and came one-on-one with the onrushing Insurance keeper. As the keeper dove at his feet to grab the ball, the lightning fast youngster chipped the ball over him into an empty net.

His most vital goal in his debut must be the winner against Enyimba International FC in the Final of the 2013 Abia State FA Cup. Before that match, two times CAF Champions League champions Enyimba had been unbeaten in the state FA Cup for 13 years. But Chisom and co were uncowed by history and went, saw and conquered Enyimba in Aba. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and just like Chisom endeared himself to Abia Warriors faithful by scoring his debut goal against their cross city rivals, he cemented his place in Abia Warriors folklore by grabbing the vital winner against their ‘big brother’ Enyimba to the bewilderment of Aba fans.

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Goldfish have no hiding place they say and that match brought Chisom to the attention of Enyimba IFC. When he also ended the season as the NNL Group B top scorer, Enyimba officials enticed him with a very lucrative offer to dump Abia Warriors and join them but the lad refused to be seduced, preferring instead to fight for his place amongst the numerous experienced players Abia Warriors had recruited for their maiden Premier League campaign. After a slow start, he started gradually to weigh in with some vital goals to prove his worth in the Premier League.

In his debut season in the top flight, he notched eight goals but was outshone this time by his strike partner Peter Onyekachi, who grabbed 12 goals for the Premier league debutantes and was soon snapped up by Enyimba International on a loan deal. Chisom still did enough to be voted League Bloggers Young Player of The season.

 

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The following season 2014/2015 season proved to be the year Chisom would play his name into the hearts of every Nigerian league follower, scoring goal after goal to emerge the third highest goal scorer in the league with 13 goals. His hat-trick against Rangers in a game televised live by DSTV earned him an instant call up to the Super Eagles team and he went on to grab a place in the team to the 2016 Championship For African Nations (CHAN) held in Rwanda.

Despite several offers from clubs trying to sign him in the January 2016 transfer window Chisom rejected their overtures, insisting he could not turn down the opportunity to play for his country at the CHAN. That decision proved a very wise one as Chisom started the tournament on the bench but after scoring a second half hat trick in 30 minutes against Niger Republic, Chisom ended up as top scorer of the CHAN with 4 goals as Nigeria failed to advance past the second round of the tournament.

“My story is incomplete without mentioning the role of High Chief Emeka Inyama in my life and career. From the day I signed for Abia Warriors, he has shown me so much fatherly love. I call him father because he is like a father to me. He has guided me through my career, and always been there for me. When my mother died, he was there for me and my family. If only other club administrators would emulate him, Nigerian football would be better off.”

Chisom joined Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco this summer, and scored on his full debut for the club against Zesco Utd of Zambia. Surely, he is a star on a rapid rise.inyama-chikatara