Chigozie Udoji is not a name that rings a familiar note, he isn’t household property in Nigerian football, it can be said he exists on the fringes of obscurity in fact.
A 34 year-old Forward whose last days in professional football could see him head to Asia for one last big pay cheque, but 15 years ago, in his prime Udoji was between the devil and the deep blue sea.
It was a defining moment in his career and at age 20, the chance of playing for one of World’s football’s biggest National teams, the Super Eagles, was the dream of most.
“If i had given what was asked perhaps I would be elsewhere today. They wanted me to sign a contract,” he told Brila FM’s ‘No Hold’s Barred’ with Ifeanyi Udeze.
Udoji was born in Ajegunle, a sprawling City but mostly impoverished where football has been the escape for many young men.
Several notable players from Ajegunle, including Emmanuel Amuneke and Ifeanyi Udeze had gone on to play for the Super Eagles and reached the biggest stages in Europe.
A young exciting footballer in Bulgaria at the time, Udoji hoped to emulate his idols and suit up for Nigeria, but the prevalent “culture” would prove a stumbling block he explained.
“Maybe I made mistakes or not but I feel it’s all God’s plan. Maybe it’s because I didn’t give the things I was asked,” Udoji said.
“Nigeria is a country of give and take, that’s the culture. If I had given what was asked perhaps I would be elsewhere today.
“They wanted me to sign a contract. I was asked to sign a Contract where they’ll (the National team Coaches) be entitled to 20% of my earning for the rest of my career.
“But as a kid from Ajegunle I just wanted to play football and had my ambitions, so I refused and I was snubbed.
“I was confident to ask for a chance to play for Nigeria because I had the quality and was good enough, but they made demands that I couldn’t accept and I was never given that invitation.
“I was interviewed about playing for Nigeria and if I felt like I deserved a place I responded in the affirmative and I stand by it till Today.”
A frustrated Udoji turned to the Bulgaria FA. They had offered him the opportunity of taking up citizenship and representing their national teams.
He was quickly drafted to the U21s and lined up for his first international game in a friendly against Greece, he scored a brace.
“When all these things happened I accepted the Bulgarian passport and played for their Under 21, but kept my options open to represent Nigeria, this was after speaking with my Brother.
“I played a friendly against Greece and scored twice; I was promised a lot of things by the Bulgarian authorities to continue playing. But I never got the chance from Nigeria again.”
Those times are past now and Chigozie Udoji has moved on, but he says his goal after football is to become an Agent so he can help others achieve the dreams of playing football.
The Enosis Neon Paralimniou Striker wishes more quality players will emerge from Ajegunle, who will get the chance to reach Europe.
“I’m very happy for myself, a lot of people from Ajegunle with the talent could not get the chance to play football. And I wish that more will come from my hood to get the opportunity to play professionally.”