Side Kick

Tribute to departed senior man, Chinedu Udoji


With Adebayo Olodan

It is so sad that barely few weeks after Nigerian football aficionados mourned the passing of Deji Tinubu and former Nigeria Football Association spokesman, Austin Mgbolu, another casualty (Chinedu Udoji) was recorded last weekend.
For the seven years that he represented Enyimba (five of those as club captain), Chinedu Udoji was one of the most respected, if not the most revered in the Peoples Elephant dressing room.
Udoji was a calm footballer yet he was held in high esteem by his colleagues and even club officials. The central defender was nicknamed ‘senior man’ by his teammates due to his leadership qualities on and off the football pitch.
After a relatively successful career with the Aba Millionaires, Udoji opted for Kano Pillars last season where he has remained a fixture in the heart of defence alongside Stephen Eze before the latter defected to Bulgaria recently.
It says a lot that, barely a year into his stay at Kano Pillars, he captained the side for the opening games of the league season, in the absence of local hero Rabiu Ali.
On the pitch, he was a tough tackler and tireless defender. He was not the most aesthetically pleasing, but he more than made up for it by wearing his heart on his sleeve, much in the same way that his model, John Terry did with great distinction for Chelsea. Udoji wore Terry’s talismanic No 26 jersey throughout his time at Enyimba.
Off the pitch, Udoji was altogether a different individual: thoughtful, measured and with no airs at all.
In his final appearance for Kano Pillars at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Udoji was typically physical and gave young Enyimba forward, Wasiu Alalade a good couple of tackles.
When he met the younger Alalade afterward, he was said to have effusively apologised, acknowledging that he had been overly rough. The previously irate striker, who had vowed never to speak to him again, was bowled over by his sincerity. There is a sense of poetry to the fact that he played his last football match against the team with whom he is most closely associated, and in which he achieved the most success. The 28-year-old Udoji, posted a heartwarming performance, scored a goal and was voted the Man of the Match when his new club was held to a 1-1 draw by his former employer, Enyimba FC of Aba.
That match turned out to be Udoji’s last as he was involved in ghastly auto accident along Club Road in Kano, Sunday night, after visiting his former team mates in their hotel.
His last act before passing – paying a visit to the Enyimba camp to catch up on old times with the club of his heart is an indication of where Udoji’s affections lay.
According to the Media Officer of Kano Pillars, Malikawa Garu,  Udoji’s car (Honda EOD) hit the median kerb on the metropolitan highway by the roundabout of Club Road /Independent way on his way back to the Pillars’ club house between 11pm – 12 midnight. Udoji’s legacy is not in the trophies, although he won quite a few with Enyimba: one league title and two FA Cups come to mind readily. It is in the less tangible aspects. There is no bauble that can encapsulate what he meant to the players and management of the teams he turned out for.
As a long-serving captain with the Aba giants, he understood fiercely his responsibilities toward both the staff and the players. On the grueling cross-country trips that are the bane of Nigerian football, Udoji would almost always take the least comfortable seat if it meant someone else could sit more comfortably.
On more than one occasion, he objected to the standards of a hotel the team was invited to camp in, demanding on behalf of the team more befitting accommodations.
As the condolences that have poured in by the bucket load can attest, Udoji was no doubt an influential footballer in our domestic league. His influence cut across having featured for two of the richest and most successful clubs in the land.
If time is this short and transient, then we ought to live it with all we are, holding nothing back.
My deepest condolences to his family, especially his wife and two sons; Chidubem and Chinemerem.
Udoji was a family man, who celebrated his lovely wife and children on the social media especially on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. On his Instagram page; Udoji 26, the central defender posted the pictures of his children with the caption; “Chidubem and Chinemerem, my two lovely sons. Love dem like mad.”
One thing I can guarantee is that our hearts will never forget the name Chinedu Udoji, nor his offspring. It is so sad to see him leave us so soon but at 28, Udoji surely has left his footprints in the sand of time.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button