• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Football stars of years gone by (1)

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This week, as part of my random musings, I came across a news item on the wires purporting that Julius Aghahowa of Nigeria ’99 fame was retired or forced into retirement (not sure which) and now sells cars for a living in London. Do not get me wrong – nothing wrong with it at all. As many you can remember, it was a lucrative trade back in the late ’80s and ’90s when Tokunbo cars were brought in from Belgium, Holland and Germany. This now gave me the impetus to delve into some of these stars of years gone by and what has become of them today.

This week, I will be focusing on Julius Aghahowa. He was a poacher in his time and was quite famous for his blistering pace and back flips after scoring a goal, and was one of the very first to move to Shaktar Donetsk in Ukraine, a former state in the old Soviet Union and member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, an alliance that used to comprise countries of the old Union of Soviets Socialist Republic (USSR).

Julius, who is now 31, started his career with Police Machines in Benin. Thereafter, he moved to Bendel Insurance where he was spotted and moved to Esperance, where he won the league in 2000 with the Tunisians. He was an integral part of the team for the Olympics in Sydney in the same year. He won the league four times with Shaktar of Ukraine – 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2010 – along with the league cup for two years, 2002 and 2004. He spent a total of six years there, his longest sojourn in the course of his professional career. Thereafter, he had a stint with Wigan Athletic in England where he played for one and a half years but failed to score a single goal. Then he moved to Turkey with Kayserispor in 2008, but his career was already on a decline by then. He went back again to Shaktar but was loaned out to another club and eventually released in the 2011/2012 season.

Noteworthy was his international career which started with the African Youth Championship in Nigeria in 1999, where he came to the spotlight and was extended an immediate invitation to the Super Eagles. He was joint top goal scorer at the AFCON in Mali in 2000, with 3 goals, alongside Patrick Mboma and Salomon Olembe, both of Cameroon. He continued with this positive streak to the World Cup in Germany in 2002 by scoring our lone goal in the competition against Sweden.

Aghahowa made 32 appearances for Nigeria and scored 14 goals. Not a bad goal return, you would say. Julius was quite disciplined throughout his time with the national teams and stayed away from controversy. He seems to have invested well too with a string of assets cut across Lagos, Benin, London and Kiev. He has not officially retired from football as he is listed as a free agent, but with his forays into business, one doesn’t expect him to come back to the game.

Numerous fans would have loved to have him involved with our football in some capacity, but I guess not everyone has the nous or temperament. The Nigeria Football Federation, I bet, does not have a database of our icons of yore which will make following their careers easier and calling on them to contribute their quota towards our future football development. Aghahowa will for long be remembered for his selfless service to the intermediate and senior national teams and I feel a testimonial will be in order – and it is not too late.

 

Ade Adefeko