In every football team around the world, there is always a player or group of players whose teammates hold in high esteem. Other members of the squad live in awe of these players. They can influence the coach’s decisions by determining who plays and who sits on the bench on match days. As a coach, you can lose your job whenever you fall out of favour with these players. These players are the leaders of these squads. For Enyimba, that man is their captain, Chinedu Udoji.
Udoji joined the Aba giants in 2010 from FC Abuja. If anyone had told him that he would become the supreme leader of this great Nigerian team, he would have laughed it off. From a humble beginning, he rose to become the captain of the team, based on what I like to call ‘divine mandate!’
At the beginning of the 2012/2013, the then captain, Josiah Maduabuchi, tried to force a move to arch rivals, Enugu Rangers. The move was blocked by the club and Maduabuchi remained at the club for few months but not without losing the armband. The damage had been. It’s a football crime for an Enyimba captain to demand for a move to Rangers. A new captain was needed, and in 2013, Udoji was handed the armband -ultimately, the leadership of the team. That was his third season at the club.
A new era began. An era where Enyimba’s defence became the meanest back line in the history of Nigerian football. In his first season as captain, he led the team to a 100% clean sheets record at home(19 games), and in all, Enyimba kept 22 clean sheets for that season. A record yet to be broken. I dare to say that it would take decades before any other team comes close to achieving this feat!
‘The Man of Steel,’ as the Aba fans call him, is widely known for his no-nonsense defending. He fears no challenge. In fact, he enjoys making dangerous tackles. Perhaps, this is why the league strikers find it difficult to play against him. He loves to break some legs. Woe betide you, if you are caught in his nest!
The captain has shown that apart from his defending abilities, he is also capable of getting on the score sheet, with a total of five goals to his name. Prior to being named the team’s leader, he scored his first goal in his first home appearance in 2010 against Ocean Boys, and his second came almost two years later, away to Akwa United in 2012. His third and fourth goal came against Wikki Tourists in week 31 of the current season in Aba. Yesterday, he rose higher to node home Enyimba’s winner against Shooting Stars. He leads by example, especially in a season where the strikers haven’t been at their best.
The trophies have also followed. What is a captain without the pride of lifting giant trophies? Udoji has already tasted this when he lifted the Federation Cup for the team in 2013 and 2014, much to the envy of other captains. But there is only one trophy that has eluded this great King; the league trophy!
Others may see him as ‘The Man of Steel’, I choose to see him as a King in his castle. Recently, the King signed a new contract to extend his stay at the club till 2018! Guess what? We love him! It’s not every time you’d be lucky enough to find a captain who is also a fan of the team!
Enyimba are five points ahead of the chasing pack with just five games to play. It’s only a matter of time before the King lays his hands on his most coveted prize.
To my fellow Enyimba fans, do not doubt the ability of the current squad to deliver our 7th league title. I believe, for the first time in five years, that we can finally move past Enugu Rangers(with six titles too) to become the most crown league champions! May God bless your hustle as you keep supporting Enyimba and our local league.
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