By CIC Old Boy
In my time at College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC) Enugu from the mid to late 1970s we produced one truly great team, and that was in 1977. Unfortunately, this team did not win the old Anambra State championship – thanks to a man-mountain of a striker at Christ the King College (CKC) Onitsha called Nnamdi “Camel” Nwokocha. CKC beat CIC 3-1 in the state final of 1977, with “Camel” scoring two goals. It was literally “men against boys”.
But my old school would later dominate the championships in the 1980s. Despite not winning in 1977, the team that year was really special. What made our team even more remarkable was the fact that we were one of the very few that picked our squads entirely from students that passed their common entrance exams to get into the school – unlike others that relied heavily on “mercenaries”. For this reason we had younger players compared to the others and this worked against us in that 1977 final.
The first team picked itself.
Goalie: Donald “Donacimento” (or “Cimento”) Okolo – was a skinny guy with cat-like reflexes. My abiding memory of him was after we had gone to watch CKC qualify to face us in the final with Camel scoring twice, we asked “Cimento” whether we had anything to fear, and he said CKC were not that good and only had one decent player. Famous last words. That one decent player would score two goals against us in the final.
Left-back: James “Public Enemy” Agbo. “Enemy 1” was a “terrorist” on and off the pitch. Folks were really scared of this genuine hard man. His defensive style was straight up “Italian” – the man could pass him, or the ball could pass him, but never both at the same time.
Right-back: Joseph “Jomo” Ogbodo. “Jomo” was a no-frills defender who didn’t seem to take the game as seriously as his cousins – Christian and Peter Ogbodo. Christian was then a precociously-talented right winger at Boys High School Awkunanaw and would later play for Enugu Rangers and Nigeria before hitting the well-worn trail to the US. Peter played in goal for Nike Grammar School. Back then, if you were an Ogbodo, everyone automatically assumed you could play. But “Jomo” had other interests. The dude managed to acquire a brand new Datsun 180K while he was a final year student. No one was quite sure what he did, although rumour had it he owned several stalls at Ogbete Market, Enugu, while still a schoolboy.
Centre-back/sweeper: Donald “Stone” Igwebuike. “Stone” was a near perfect “Chairman” Christian Chukwu (then skipper of Enugu Rangers and Nigeria) clone. Like Chairman, he was a leader of men and directed play like a quarterback. He could step into midfield and loved to bring the ball forward from the back. He was our dead-ball specialist and whenever we had a free-kick, the whole stadium would erupt in a drawn-out roar of “Stooooooooooooooooooone!” Most of us tipped “Stone” to captain Rangers and the Eagles just like Chairman. He played briefly for Enugu Rangers and Nigeria, but abandoned all that for higher education in the US. He played college football for Clemson University in South Carolina before switching to gridiron and putting those free-kick skills to use as a kicker for Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Centre-back: Jude “Adebo” Osuji. Everyone knew him as “Ade”. He was the perfect foil for “Stone” and very pacey. We used to think the two were a schoolboys’ version of the Chukwu and Godwin Odiye pairing at the national team.
Defensive midfield: Kenneth “SKB” Boardman. “Skip Ken” was the only “junior boy” (Class 3 student) in this team, which said a lot about his talent. He was hard but was also a pocket battleship of skill, could pass, dribble and had a thunderous right foot shot. He would take over the captaincy in Class 5. Boardman gained national prominence when he was converted to right-back by Enugu Rangers’ coach Roberto Diaz. He would play in this position for the Flying Eagles and for Nigeria before higher education in the US lured him away. Boardman without a doubt would have been Nigeria’s best ever right-back. He was like Brazil’s Cafu before we saw Cafu.
Inside-right (midfield/attack): Theodore “Imported” (pronounced “Impo-red” in Naija/American style) Ukpabi. Very few knew this diminutive funny guy by is real name. He was originally in our basketball team but switched to football because footballers were on special rations (“players’ meal”), which were larger and tastier. No one believed he could play, but he kept scoring goals in training and scored an average of two goals per game until we got to the final. He was a bit like a Paul Scholes – hardly noticeable in a game until he popped up with a goal.
Inside left (attacking midfield): Ifeanyi “Ahidjo” Onyedika. “Ahi” came from a family of footballing brothers. Emeka “Owusu” his older brother was an Enugu Rangers legend on the right flank, and would have been a permanent fixture for Nigeria if not for the misfortune of having a certain Segun Odegbami playing in the same position, and injuries that slowed him down. Ahi’s younger brother Kato would also play for CIC in 1978 and go on to play for FRCN Bricawaves. Ahi was the more talented of the brothers, though not as pacey as Emeka, he was the ultimate playmaker, and would have given us a real chance at the 1977 final if he didn’t carry an injury into the game. He was later converted to striker at Rangers and went on to play in the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations. Winning the Cup meant that relative success came to him pretty early – cash from the federal government, a flat in Festac Village, Lagos, a brand new Peugeot 504, etc. This, added to a laidback attitude towards the game and drinking, meant that Ahidjo never lived up to the potential he showed at CIC.
Left-wing: “Cruiser” (aka “Accru”) Ofodile. Accru was a tricky old school speedy winger with two feet. His twin brother Chibo was a right-winger for Nike Grammar School and went on to play for Enugu Rangers. Accru was faster, but not as skilful as Chibo and would have made a career out of football, but chose to go to university instead to read pharmacy, first at University of Lagos and then Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Both brothers played for Anambra State Academicals and were a pleasure to behold as they constantly switched wings to torment fullbacks just like like Odegbami and Adokiye Amiesimaka did for the national team.
Centre forward: Ndubuisi “ND Hammer” Enwezor. He missed more than he converted, but it didn’t matter because goals were coming from elsewhere and the team created loads of chances. I was informed lately that ND was Impored’s brother.
Right-wing: Obi Junior. He was a quietly efficient sort of player, who worked very hard for the team, without being spectacular.
Even the bench was good in 1977. Subs included defender Joe Oha, later to play for Rangers, Nigeria, and skipper ACB Lagos before heading for the States, and midfielder Francis “Bukado” Okaro, who went on to play for Rangers, before college in the US and a spell in the MLS as a centreback alongside Alexei Lalas at New England Revolution.