Benedict Akwuegbu at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/ Japan.
For the very first time in living memory, former Nigerian National team players are showing tremendous interest and readiness to direct the affairs of the nation’s football after their playing careers.
The life span of the current board of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, comes to an end in September with an èlective Congress billed for September. But the Melvin-Pinnick Amaju led board is fighting a legal battle to vacate a court order restaining the NFF Elective Congress.
Without the vacation of the order, the September 2022 Congress meant to elect Amaju’s successor would be difficult.
With the ‘men of wig and gown’ battle to vacate the restraining order which was consequent upon the 2018 election where the litigants, stakeholders, claim that non elected delegates voted, against the status of the NFF, some retired footballers are now mounting the starting block to lead the game in the country.
Information revealed that at the moment, no fewer than three former Super Eagles players have shown tremendous zeal to become the NFF President just as Samuel Eto’o Fils is in charge of Cameroonian FA, FECAFOOT.
In Liberia, George Weah led their FA before later being elected as President of the country.
Now, our ex footballers are showing desire, readiness and passion to to similar steps.
Tribunesports check reveal that Ben Akwuegbu, popularly known as ‘Austria Bomber’, Jonathan Akpoborie and Idah Peterside, a goalkeeper in his playing days, are the threesome ex players who now want to run the game as administrator.
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In the past, only Chief Segun ‘Mathematical’ Odegbami, had, as an ex player, contested, severally, for the NFA (as it was then) Chairmanship seat.
Akwuegbu, Akpoborie and Peterside, may be the only ex players jostling for the NFF Presidency hot seat, but certainly the race is not for them alone.
Mazi Amanze Uchegbulem, Imo FA Chairman and former NFF Vice President (2006-2010) during Alhaji Sani Lulu’s tenure, Chief Fan Ndubuoke, a former NFA Board member and ex SWAN President and Christian Emeruwa, a staff of NFF and CAF Security Committee member, are also eyeing Amaju’s seat.
Exclusivenews.com.ng rule on the three ex footballers indicate that Akwuegbu flaunts a better credentials to dwarf his colleagues.
As a goalkeeper, Peterside had an amazing career at then famous BCC Lions of Gboko. To underline his quality, Peterside equally manned the sticks for yet other Nigerian top flight sides, Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Enyimba before joining Temba Classic FC, South Africa (in 1999).
After a two year stint in the club, Peterside was snapped by South African Premier Soccer League, PSL side, Morocco Swallows.
The 47-year-old bulky stopper was invited to the Super Eagles first in 1998 and was a regular invitee until 2001.
After calling time on his career, he delved into God’s Vine Yard, becoming a soul winner for God. Today Idah Peterside is pastoring a new generation church in South Africa as well as an analyst with Super Sport, a Cable Television Channel based in Johanesbourg, South Africa.
Besides, Peterside had served Nigeria in the past in the capacity of media officer of the Super Eagles.
Jonathan Akpoborie, 53, (54 on October 20, 1022), was a member of the Nigeria U17 Golden Eaglets that won the inaugural edition of the Kodak/FIFA U17 World Cup in China, 1985.
The 5ft, 7 inches forward later featured for the U20 Flying Eagles and later Super Eagles, earning 13 caps and four (4) goals between 1995-2001.
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A former player of defunct Julius Berger of Lagos FC, Akpoborie moved to Brooklyn College, USA, in 1987, combining academics with football. By 1990, he was snapped by I.FC Saarbrucken.
He featured for Carl Zeis Jena (1992-1994), Stuttgarter Kickers Germany (1994-1995); Waldron Mannheim, Hansa Rostock (1996-1997); VfB Stuttgart (1997-1999) and VfL Wolfsburg (1999-2001) before calling time on his illustrious career.
Akpoborie featured for the Super Eagles from 1995-2001, amassing 13 caps with four (4) goals.
In a glittering career that spanned through several European leagues including Germany and France as well as USA, Akpoborie scored 143 club goals in 325 games, hence his conviction that he has what it takes to lead Nigerian football to the,promise land.
They call him ‘Austria Bomber’, a sobriquet he earned following his blistering performance in Austrian League.
Ben Akwuegbu made headlines in Austria in the colours of Grazer AK, for six seasons in two different times. The 47-year-old (would be 48 Nov 3, 2022) striker holds the record of playing in six leagues across Europe as well as first Nigerian player to play in the Chinese Super League, CSL, (Shenyang FC), 2002 as well as Tianjin Tefa (2006).
The Mbaise, Imo State born striker got his career underway in the colours of Mighty Jets of Jos before kick starting his European career with French side, RC Lens in 1991-1992. From there, he moved to Belgium, signing a deal with KSC Eendracht Aalst, later to Harelbek, Warren and Tienen before opening his Austria career chapter with Grazer AK in 1998-2002.
He was later to play for FC Karnten, St Gallen, Siemens, Panserraikos, Walker Innsbruck, Quingdao Jonoon and Basingstoke Town, England, where he retired from active football with 104 goals in 324 club games.
His national team record in fantastic, featuring in all the age grade teams for Nigeria, U17; U20; U23 and senior National Team, Super Eagles.
Akwuegbu equally wore the Eagles captain’s armband. He was part of the Super Eagles Qorld Cup squad in 2002 in Japan, scored a total of eight goals in 30 Super Eagles games.
Akwuegbu continued off the pitch immediately after retirement from active football, equipping himself for future challenges. He quickly enrolled and obtained his coaching badge, had a managerial spell at FC Gratkorn, Austria in 2015-2016 as Manager.
He was later to be appointed as Technical Director of Mighty Jets of Jos and Assistant General Manager of Heartland FC, Owerri (2011-2013.
Akwuegbu floated and funded Mbaise Lions FC and later Akuegbu United. He also sponsored the Legends Tournament in Jos and Unity Cup. He rehabilitated some ex players in Jos with cars and built a hotel in Abuja, Big
Ben Hotel, which is billed for opening in the coming days.
He is currently an under graduate of Angelia Ruskin University, A.R.U, UK.