Live interview with Ifeanyi Ahidjo Onyedikachi, Ex Rangers/Green Eagles star at Nnamdi Azikiwe national stadium Enugu state. 27/03/2021...
1. Can you tell us about yourself, how you got involved with football?
"Okay, Yeah sports got me even before I grew up. My elder brother Emeka played for Rangers, my mother was a fast runner during the old Onitsha province, people do ask me then if I was the son of this woman.
I started playing during my primary school days, then to the youth team called greater tomorrow, from there to the main team during the secondary school days. I later joined the academical from there to Rangers fc of Enugu, so you can see it was indeed a great process.
2. How was it playing under the shadow of your Superstar brother Emeka Onyedika, also known as 'Owusu'?
"Oh!!, As matter of fact I don't care anymore about that because people do say my brother played good football more than I do, but I do wave that away, they mostly see him as a bigger and better player than me, but unfortunately he didn't play long enough before he retired, he played just 3 to 4 years, while I played close to 10 years , that's football for you.
We both share different style of play, although he was so exciting to watch as he ran riot on opposition defenders down the flank, but for me, I was not that fast but I did very well as a number nine.
3. Do you believe school sports or going back to academical will help revamp Nigeria football again?
" I believe in the academicals, because if it's not corrected, Nigeria football will continue going down, I believe so much in grassroot, from under 10, 13 and 17, from there you have the raw talent you need. That's the way it's supposed to be.
4. You were one of CIC Enugu that got into the Anambra state academical Cup final against the CKC for the first time.... What happened...... Nnamdi Nwokocha Camel was unstoppable?
"Smiles..... Well Nnamdi happened... You know he's a big and good player with enough strength and eye for goal. Although we had a smaller defenders and Nnamdi at that time had tested good football at club levels, like the Bicycle Degema and others....
He was more mature ad it showed out during that game. Without Nnamdi, we would have beaten CkC here in Nnamdi Azikiwe national stadium. It was indeed a great game and we concluded that we played against Nnamdi Nwokocha.
5. Who were the stars of your team that year?
" Ehn... the likes of Donald Igbowuike, Jude aka Public enemy, Theodore, Ndubuisi Agu, so many of them.... Great guys, we had a very fine team, you know as football is, CKC dismantled us here in Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium.
6. How did you get into Enugu Rangers?
"Oh well, my elder brother was already in Rangers, because of the injury he sustained during his early days at Rangers, my father refused me to have anything to do with the club. He felt that playing for Rangers is dangerous.
"So I joined and started playing for Vasco fc during my school days, so from there I joined NEPA fc from Vasco, we had an FA Cup game with NEPA at Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium.
"It was a tough game and we lost that match by 6 - 2, and I was the among those that scored the two goals my club got in that game. So because of the way I dribbled past the goal keeper and defenders, Rangers officials then said I must come and play for the club, then the next year or so, I joined Rangers.
7. Tell us about that memorable match against Water Cooperation in Ibadan.
"You see I was in IMT Enugu at that time and I had exams and Rangers left on a Friday to play on Sunday and my exam ran through Saturday, there was no way I could have gone with them and skip my papers, this got the officials angry because as at them they saw education as a secondary issue.
"So after my last paper on that Saturday, I saw one of Rangers supporters, a big guy and he asked why I wasn't with the tram that traveled for the game, I narrated my story he asked if he provide me with flight ticket if I would go, I replied Yes, then he said his driver will come early in the morning on Sunday to pick me to the airport.
"Then that very Sunday morning, the driver came and we went straight to the airport and I got to Lagos by 9am. I now transported myself to Ibadan, of course no body in the team knew I was coming because there was no cellphone then.
"So when I entered the game arena, I went straight to the restaurant to eat and get ready because that's the rule to eat early before any game, I was opportune to stay close where the boys are being addressed, but I had to leave them to the pitch to get myself warmed up before the kickoff.
"When I returned from the pitch, my teammates saw me and were so happy and excited as well as the coach and staff... So the manager said ' boy you're welcome, relax I will give you jersey, you will play and make it happen ', then the rest of history as I got into the pitch and scored four goals, two goals in each half.
8. Let's put you on the spot, can you give us your all time Rangers XI.
" Ah.... It's quite tough to go with, where do I start, but I think I will start from somewhere..
"For the goalkeeper, I will go with Emmanuel Okala, right full-back- Ernest Ufere, Left full-back- Harrison Mecha, Defensive midfielder- Christian Madu, Left Central defense - Dominic Ezeani, Right Central defense - Christian Chukwu, Central midfield - Stanley and Okorogbue, why I have to go with this two is incase the coach wants to go with double four, forward - Kenneth Abanah, striker - Ogbueze, but this two men can interchange wonderfully well, especially Ogbueze, but after the academicals, I don't know what happened to him, he was so good, magical and very unstoppable. Then the right wing forward - Emeka my brother, then left wing forward - Ajero.... That's my best eleven.
9. How did you get into the national team and the incident with the bus, tell us about it.....
"Okay... When I get into Rangers and we were playing WAFU Cup, it happened that Rangers have to travel to Lagos for the game before our first game with the Sailors of Ivory Coast, we were told that we will have to play a friendly game with the national team, so did and beat them 2-0, so I was the one who scored two of the goals, they were surprised as they looked at me in dismay... Then Green Eagles coach Otto Gloria said I must be in his team..... Then after two days, we had the game with the Sailors of Ivory Coast... We beat them 3-1, of course I scored two and set up another through spot kick... From there the coach of the national team started hunting me... But I was immature and wasn't interested in playing for the national team.... I promised Otto Gloria that I would come once I come back from lagos.... I also scored against the Ivory Coast side at their home as we beat them 2-0....
"So after all my running around to avoid playing for the national team, I later succumbed to the pressure when I was invited to play with the national side, I did and after 15 mins, I claimed to have been injured but never knew I have been chosen to play in their next game.
"Then I was in my hotel room without knowing that we had a match, they left me behind to the stadium for the game and played goalless draw in the first half... When the coach noticed I wasn't with the team, he sent some officials to come fetch me and as I was in my room, I heard a heavy knock on the door, as I opened I was then taken to the pitch..
"The coach saw me and gave me jersey and said I used warm up to play.. luckily for us I scored the first and second goal of the game as we beat them 3-0 in that match... That was how I officially joined the national team.
10. How was it playing with the national team, especially during the 1980 nations Cup.
"It was indeed awesome, At the time I was inexperienced. To me it wasn't real, by giving me an opportunity among great players, it was wonderful, I would have done much but because I was still amateur..... I didn't play to my own potential... I don't think I did.
11. During the tournament, an ancident happened at the final against Algeria, Eagles were leading 3-0 with less than few minutes to go, Otto Gloria the coach told Okala to warm up for his years of service, but was waved off by NFA officials, what happened?
"It was shameful, in Nigeria it's indeed a funny place because Okala was a big player, he made a mistake in one of our previous games, which led to him being benched, Otto Gloria said he Okala should warm-up but it was turned down, if you watch the video script, you'll see me, Otto Gloria and Okpala- who stood and left even Gloria left fee minutes to the final whistle.... So it's quite shameful.
12. What are you doing now, are you still coaching, you once won the Federation Cup back to back with Dolphins a rare feat.
" Well after Dolphins, I have coached some other clubs, but the point is that the politics in the game has made clubs to try and sign their own people as coaches .... But Rangers doesn't do that ... I'm still into coaching like last season, I was with a team called Giant Brewers.... But unfortunately they don't have the finance to continue..... I do come from Trans-Ekulu to train the players morning and evening... So it's quite difficult and I had to quit.... Atimes when you say the truth or your mind... People don't like you.... The problem is because I don't allow anyone to pick players for me and I hate bribery.
13. How does the name 'Ahidjo' came about?
"During my primary school wen we lived opposite UNEC Campus and we do train inside the school environment.. there was a team called the Islanders, they had a goalkeeper called Ahidjo, so one day I was watching them play and Ahidjo didn't come and it happened that they were to play match that day... But I was good in playing and keeping, so they used me to replace Ahidjo and I really performed well.... The opposition side were surprised as to how I performed there.... Then the coach now said ' although Ahidjo is not here, but there's Ahidjo here ', from there they started calling me the name Ahidjo.
14. Is Nigeria League compromised, the home teams always win.
"It has been like this ever since I started playing in Nigeria..... It's difficult to get that corrected, if this can be solved, then everyone involved will have to do the right thing..... Let club owners, officials, players and fans do the right thing and everything will work out well.... But the main problem are the officials, where the highest bidder wins..... Just go to South Africa, they league are so organized and cool.
15. Who were the toughest opponent you played against, both in Green Eagles and as a Rangers player
"When you come to the national team, every North African side are very difficult to play against, then the Cameroon and Ghana, they were very tough.... Then with Rangers, the Lagos Insurance and ICC... Also with Shooting Stars.
16. Finally, is there any regret as a professional player
"Football has brought me so much in life.... There was a time I was jogging during my time in America... About three people stopped and was hailing me 'Ahidjo'..... I was also good in my academics, maybe I would have been a professor, had it been I continued my education.... So I don't have any regret.
Thanks for your time...... Ifeanyi Ahidjo also wished the Super Eagles all the best against Benin Republic..