Cyril C. NwokejiMonday, July 10, 2017


Kelechi Emeteole

elechi Emeteole's career as a Super Eagle, was drawing to a close, when yours sincerely started observing the Super Eagles keenly. Yours sincerely remembers the last match he played for the Super Eagles, then known as the" Green Eagles" of Nigeria, in the very last match of the 1978 World cup eliminator, African zone, on the 12th of November, 1977, in Lagos. In that match he played as an offensive mid-fielder- the present day "Number 10"- playing behind the then centre-forward: Johnny Nwadioha. At that time, Kelechi Emeteole, was no more an active Super Eagle. The then "Number 10", was Godwin Iwelumo: a young, rookie, talented offensive mid-fielder, who played for the now defunct "ACB" football club of lagos; then popularly known as the "Lagos Rangers." Godwin Iwelumo, though talented, and having been a regular for the Super Eagles, in quite a number of matches, preceding the encounter against the Tunisians, was not considerd experienced enough to play against the Tunisians, who were considerd Nigeria's biggest rivals for the sole ticket, reserved for Africa, at the World cup finals, in Argentina, in 1978. The Super Eagles needed to win the match to stand a chance of qualification for "Argentina 1978." Thus, the then Serbian coach of the Super Eagles: Coach Tiko, of blessed memory, popularly called" Father Tiko ", opted for the more experienced Kelechi Emeteole .

It was a great team that had the following players in the starting eleven :

Goalkeeper Emmanuel Okala, alias" Man mountain," was in goal.

Defenders: Patrick Ekeji, ( right full back), the late Samuel Ojebode of blessed memory, alias" Oje mi Oje," ( Left-full back), Skipper Christian "Chairman" Chukwu ( Centre-half back) and Godwin Odiye, alias "Mr. No way," (Left-half back).

The mid-fielders were: the Late Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal, alias" Baba shiru," of blesssed memory ( Central mid-fielder); the late Aloysius Atuegbu, of blessed memory, alias "the block buster," or" Atu-egbe," right-sided offensive mid-fielder; and kelechi Emeteole, now of blessed memory, left-sided offensive mid-fielder.

At that time, the tactical concept of "defensive mid-fielder," was not yet known to Nigerian football. It was introduced to the Super Eagles, and consequently, to Nigerian football, by the Brazilian coach, who replaced Coach Tiko: the late Coach Prof. Otto Gloria, of blessed memory. Details of the various tactical evolutions that have characterised the playing pattern of the Super Eagles, over the years, as well as other interesting stories of the Super Eagles, have been chronicled in my book on the Super Eagles of Nigeria, scheduled for release later on. Please stay tuned!

The attackers were: Segun" Mathematical" Odegbami, right winger; Adokiye Amesimaka, alias "the Chief Justice," left winger; the central striker, known as the centre-forward, was Johnny Nwadioha.

The Super Eagles looked bright in their 4-3-3 formation, and went after the Tunisians from the blast of the whistle. Kelechi Emeteole, was a lynch pin of the Super Eagles' offensive thrusts, as he orchestrated most moves from the mid-field. But helaas it was not to be, as the Super Eagles couldn't break through the double defensive wall of the Tunisians, that day. The Tunisians were tactically better organised! Details are chronicled in my book. Unfortunately, Nigeria, lost by the odd own goal, scored by Nigeria's ace defender: Godwin Odiye! The loss signaled the end of Nigeria's World cup dreams and consequently the end of the international career of Kelechi Emeteole.

Kelechi Emeteole continued his club socccer career, for a time, before finally calling it a day. Kelechi Emeteole, no doubt, had an illustrious career as a player. He was a polyvalent player, who played in virtually all positions for the Super Eagles of Nigeria!

After retirement, he became a coach, and coached a number of Nigerian clubsides and helped discover and nurture a number of top Nigerian players.

Unfortunately, he belonged to a generation of Nigerian players, that played the game, virtually for little or no material benefits! And they were notwithstanding the material disadvantages, quite committed to the game. They played with their hearts and might, in the service of club and country! They are heroes who should be celebrated! Kelechi Emeteole, is certainly a legend of Nigerian football!

My sincere condolences to his family! May the soul of kelechi Emeteole, find rest in the Lord's bossom! Amen!!!!