PLAYERS graduated from Enugu NEPA to either Vasco Dagama or Rangers International. Those were the three major clubs in Enugu then.
As players walked out of the pitch at the end of the first half in one friendly match we (Enugu NEPA) were playing then, Paul Chibuzor fondly called Sayama on getting to team mates on the bench said, “Kedu ka egwum di? Kedu ife ana-ekwu makam?” That attracted hilarious laughter. Ernest Ufele was the new coach and every player wanted to impress him. Sayama wanted to know how he was fairing and uttered those words, meaning “how is my game, what are they saying about me?” Those were the good days in Enugu when the target among many players was to use the platform football offered to earn scholarship in American universities. Going to Europe for professional career was not the attraction then although Sylvanus Okpala and Okey Isima, who were exceptional, were linked to Portugal for professional stints. They first moved and shortly after that Stephen Keshi left for Belgium in a move that opened the door for many Nigerian players to embrace professional careers in Europe. However, in the late 1970s and 1980s, going to study in US on scholarship was more attractive to players from the East. And so the likes of Mike Emenalo, Francis and Benji Okaro, Christian Ogbodo, Charles Okonkwo, Arthur Egbunam, Ikechukwu Ofoje, Totty O. Totty, Emma Okonkwo, Kenneth Boardman, Ibezim Ofoedu,Chibuzor Ehilegbu etc, all left to play for American universities and also study. Before then were the likes of Ikechukwu Anigbogu, Donald Igwebuike, Kenneth Ilodigwe, Chimezie Ngadi, Nnamdi Nwokocha (Camel), Foster Ikeagu, etc. They had gone to America to read too. Mike Emenalo holds the record of returning to play professionally in Europe on graduation and going on to play in the World Cup, the USA ’94 World Cup. And today he is still in top football directing affairs in Chelsea as technical director after stints as Chief Scouting Officer. The Rangers of their time mostly pursued tertiary education abroad.