Exclusive: Kanu Inspired Me A Lot: Tony Edjomariegwe Speaks on life as a footballer, exploits in Morocco

Having played for a number of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Clubs, before moving to North Africa to ply his trade with Moroccan side, Olympic Club du Safi, Tony Edjomariegwe is fast becoming a force to reckon with in the Moroccan Bolota League. The consistent master dribbler has, on several occasions, redeemed his club in times of distress by way of scoring critical goals and making frequent assists. A dexterous winger, who can also fit well behind the main striker, Tony has earned rave reviews, and is billed to force his way back to the Super Eagles based on current form.

Tony made out time to speak with www.papilonews.com on several issues about the game and life style.

“My professional career started in Nigeria where I first featured for Gabros FC (now FC Ifeanyi Ubah) and then I had a stint with Crown FC before I moved to Kwara United,” he told www.papilonews.com.

“I later joined Shooting Stars Sports Club, Nasarawa United and my last club in the NPFL was Kano Pillars even though I joined Abia Warriors just before leaving Nigeria but I did not get to kick a ball for them as the Safi deal came up and I had to leave.

“All I ever wanted to do was to play football. It has been my dream right from childhood. There is this overwhelming joy I derive from football, it is a source of happiness to say the least.”

As a kid, Tony watched a lot of great footballers; he says one person who stood out for him is Nigeria’s Nwankwo Kanu. Kanu’s heroics at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was part of what endeared him to many Nigerian football lovers, but the former Arsenal hit man had a profound influence in Tony’s career.

“During my childhood, it was Kanu Nwankwo who I sincerely admired. He really inspired me a lot. I considered him as a role model. I was overjoyed when he helped Nigeria over come Argentina and Brazil to win the goal medal in Atlanta ‘96,” Tony recalled, and that 1996 epic showing remains indelible in his memory as well as that of millions of Nigerians.

Being an admirer of Kanu can explain why Tony is such a skillful dribbler. Speaking on his style of player the gangling wing wizard said, “God blessed me with the skill and talent to get past defenders with ease. I don’t go out of my way to over dribble but fortunately most moves I make confuse opponents and give me enough space to get away from them and make something good for my team.”

Another One Bites The Dust: Tony edribbles past another opponent

 

Playing in Nigeria, Tony exuded so much potentials of making it big in the game. He was such a hot cake that he featured for the big teams as they were at the time, barely playing up to a season at each side as others were ready to snap him up. However, as he noted, the good times in Nigeria football was not bereft of some arduous challenges.

“The welfare of players was always an issue. We also had problems of making very long distance journeys by road to honour league and cup matches. As at the time, there were common cases of unfair officiating. But I notice that nowadays, we have a better league and some good structures are being put in place to enhance the NPFL.”

Playing for a few seasons in the NPFL, Tony’s pals are still dear to him and they still bond as usual. It was difficult for him to really pick out the guys he missed playing with “because I have a lot of friends, so it is not easy to mention a few as others might get offended,” he said.

“But I really missed the like Of Azeez Shobowole who is currently playing in Sudan, Osagona Ighodaro is another mate I have missed in the game. And Rivers United’s Bolaji Sakin, too; he is still a good friend and we still keep in touch always. I have played with these guys for more than five years and up till today they are still among my best friends.”

“Here in Morocco I am close to Chisom Chikatara and Ugonna Uzochukwu not just because we share the same agent Barrister Johnny Ogbah, but because they are nice guys. Gomo Ounduku is also a close pal. We all keep in touch and yab and laugh together and get together as often as possible.”

Many African footballers have desperate cravings to play in Europe, despite the difficulties and illusive means coupled with moving into the continent to play. Tony gave his thought on why he thinks there is an anxious yearning by Africans, especially Nigerian footballers to head to Europe.

“You see, there is no doubt that Europe is the best place to play football because they have the best leagues, facilities and everything is done professionally,” he began. “When you play in Europe, there are high chances that you become popular and well paid, too. You can notice that players who play in Europe are given preferences in their respective national teams. So playing in Europe gives one a better chance to get national team call-ups. In fact, presently, the best football is played in Europe and I think that is what is attracting many footballers to Europe.

“Even though I am no longer in the local league, I still yearn to play in Europe and I am sure my agent Barrister Johnny is working around the clock to make this happen as soon as possible.

Football is one field that gives false hope to a lot of young people. Many are not lucky enough to get a deal or progress to get professional contracts and earn what will sustain them and their family. There are others who, after their active years, have nothing to fall back on.

“I have heard and read a lot of stories of how ex-footballers suffer after their active years. That is why I am making conscious effort to see that I remain comfortable after I retire from active football. I don’t have a clear idea of what it is I will do after my playing career is over, but I have been giving it some deep thoughts,” Tony revealed.

When hinted about ex-footballers who go into politics, music, academics, etc, he didn’t blink an eye.

“Politics? I never liked that aspect of life,” he quipped.

“I believe it will still be around football. When I retire I will remain in the football circle because the passion I have for the game might not permit me to stay away from it. I am not entirely sure if I will take a coaching course, go into football administration or become a scout, but it has to be about the round leather game”.

However, Tony admitted that he has come to settle down well in the city of Safi and has become the fans’ favorite after a successful debut season with the local club Olympic Club du Safi, though the language still poses some sort of barrier in getting to know about the culture, people and places. “But it is something I will overcome,” he noted.

Tony’s dress sense is another talking point in his life. Though, footballers are known for giving profound priority to their appearance, he always looks like one who wears what is apt for the occasion. He might not look flamboyant, “but I know a good stuff when I see one.”

Nigeria has a lot of footballers across the border, Tony is one who has given good account of himself.

Tony is given close attention by Raja Casablanca players