Street Football in Nigeria
By Juliet Ogbodu
KWALE/Nigeria: Football is arguably the most popular sport in the world. The attention it draws from its followers is second to none. Apart from the role it plays as a source of recreation, it has also become a huge source of revenue for investors. This explains why most of the big clubs in Europe like Manchester United FC, Liverpool FC Chelsea FC etc have been bought over by individuals.
In Nigeria, football administrators have not been able to create the enabling environment for the maximisation of potentials. However, even with the numerous challenges faced by football clubs at the grassroot level, there are those who are intrinsically motivated towards discovering and developing football talents.
Enter football in Utagba-Ogbe, Ndokwa West Local Government Area. The people of Utagba-Ogbe have always been ardent followers of football. From the time of COAMAJ FC to Utagba-Ogbe United FC in the early ’80s to Rising Stars FC in the late ’80s down to the ’90s, then from Kwale United FC to Emakpo FC and Prodigy FC in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century to 2014, football clubs in Kwale have always held their own.
In 2018, Comrade Osokam Evan Ekufia, a son of the land based in United States of America decided to sponsor a football club in Kwale known as Osevan FC. The idea is to help talented young players actualize their dream of playing professional football.
Osevan FC has been doing well in football competitions in the state, winning the now prestigious Hon. Joshua Opia cup for two consecutive editions. Their latest feat was winning the 3rd place trophy in the 2019 edition of the Bet9ja football club in Delta State. The club is waxing stronger and rearing to go under Coach Whyte Achugbue who also doubles as a staff of Delta State Sports Commission.
In 2019, Festus Odigwe, a son of Utagba-Ogbe, based in the United Kingdom established and registered a football academy known as Ndame Football Academy, Kwale. The academy is registered with and affiliated to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) under Delta State Football Association (DFA). It is also registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as a limited sports company.
According to the head coach of the academy, Coach Uche Chukuka, the priority of the academy is to secure clubs in Europe for some of the young players who have distinguished themselves in scouting programmes in which football scouts from Europe were present.
The effort of the two sons of Utagba-Ogbe already mentioned has given hope to talented young players that they have a future in the game of football. It is also a wakeup call for other well-to-do sons of Utagba-Ogbe to invest in the youths for a better tomorrow.