Lives of ex-Nigerian internationals after retirement revealed
Nigeria has been represented at different international football tournaments by some great former internationals.
Some of the ex-Nigerian internationals that have done Nigeria proud include Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, late Stephen Keshi, late Samuel Okwaraji, late Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Kingsley Obiekwu, Segun Odegbami, Christian Chukwu, Alloysius Atuegbu, Joseph Yobo and Vincent Enyeama.
Others include Daniel Amokachi, Samson Siasia, John Obi Mikel, Tijani Babangida, Obafemi Martins, and others too many to mention.
During their playing days for Nigeria, some of them played for top clubs in the English Premier League, Serie A and French Ligue 1.
These former internationals were paid by their club sides and match bonuses and allowances whenever they represented the national team of Nigeria in tournaments such as international friendlies, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the World Cup.
THE PRESS reports that after retirement, some of these former internationals delved into coaching careers, football agents, while others chose different businesses to invest their money.
But it came to several Nigerians as a shock when a couple of years after retirement, some of these former Internationals started living from hand to mouth.
Recall the case of Kingsley Obiekwu, a former Nigerian defender, who made headlines in the past after news broke that he had become a taxi driver.
Obiekwu was part of the U-23 team that won Africa’s first football gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Many lamented the current state of Obiekwu on social media, while others criticised him for not investing his money, while some blamed the Nigerian government for not showing enough concern for former internationals.
Obiekwu played alongside ex-internationals like Okocha and Kanu, who are billionaires today.
Unlike Obiekwu, a former Super Eagles defender, Sam Sodje, who only managed just a few appearances for the Nigeria national team, managed to do some level of coaching and made progress in levels 1 and 2 of coaching.
Sodje also runs his own company that deals with construction machine leasing in Nigeria.
Another example is Yakubu Aiyegbeni, a former Super Eagles striker who was a prolific attacker in his prime and played for English clubs such as Everton, Middlesbrough, Leicester City and Blackburn.
After retirement, Aiyegbeni picked up a new career as a football agent.
His company, Wilbury Sports Management, helps aspiring players and coaches find their pathways into football, with a training centre in Florida, USA, and another planned for Cyprus.
He also delved into the petroleum industry and hospitality business after retirement.
On his part, a former Nigerian under-23 team player, Kaseem Yebsaya, became depressed with no help coming from anyone and no institutional arrangement to serve as a safety net.
Yebsaya was, however, lucky to have gotten the needed help from a good Samaritan who took him to a psychiatric hospital in Kaduna State for treatment.
Similarly, Wilson Oruma, a former captain of the national under-17 team – the Golden Eaglets — who won gold at the Japan 93 cadet World Cup, became depressed also after falling victim to a swindler who robbed him of about ₦2 billion. It took the intervention of a few of his ex-teammates to help restore his mental health.
Also, a former Nigerian international, Daniel Joshua, who once proudly represented the Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles, found himself in a dire situation.
After enduring a debilitating spinal cord injury sustained in a car accident during his journey to the Minna Eagles camp, Joshua has been bedridden in Kaduna State for the past 15 years.
The gravity of Joshua’s plight came to light when former federal lawmaker Shehu Sani paid him a courtesy visit recently.
Sani, taking to Twitter, expressed his concerns about Joshua’s circumstances.
He highlighted the lack of support and assistance Joshua has received from the authorities responsible for his welfare.
THE PRESS reports that some former Nigerian internationals are doing well financially in life after retirement, while some are living from hand to mouth.
Speaking with THE PRESS, Isa Saleh Sadiq, a Football scout and the CEO of International Football Academy based in Northern Nigeria, gave his opinion on the subject matter.
Sadiq said, “We must tell ourselves the truth. When a footballer represents the country, that doesn’t mean Nigeria should shoulder his responsibilities after retirement.
“There are former internationals like Kanu, Okocha who are billionaires today. This calls for questions such as were the likes of Okocha and Kanu given preferential treatment after retirement?
“Money from football as it is coming today won’t continue forever. Consequently, players should learn to invest for the rainy days to avoid stories such as that of [Kingsley] Obiekwu.”
He added, “I would like to use this medium to advise footballers, but you will understand where I’m coming from if you are a footballer. It is really tough, you might not be earning much money, but mentally and physically, it can be a tough one. Players must accept it when active football is over. Then you must find something else to do.
“The Nigerian government should also help in providing something like a pension for these national heroes who have represented the country. They should make available attractive welfare packages because these players sacrificed for the country.
“That is why you see some players today like Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Balogun, even Saka, the list is plenty, who are Nigerian-born or have a Nigerian root, snub the opportunity to represent the country.
“They prefer to play for countries like England, USA, Italy, and others because they have better packages after retirement.”