Eze Kingsley Obumneme may not be a household name in Nigeria but the thorough lad is silently carving a niche for himself in the most unexpected of destinations – The Indian League.
Obumneme grew up, like most Nigerian players kicking football across the streets and as lucky as he thought he was, had the chance to trial with former Nigerian league champions Enugu Rangers as a teenager. He was successful and was consequently admitted into the Flying Antelopes’ Feeders team.
That ought to be the first step to becoming a local hero in Enugu but when promotion to the first team was not forthcoming, Obumneme left Enugu to try his luck elsewhere.
“I graduated from the feeder’s team to the main team but I was never given any contract as promised for almost one year so I thought that my staying there was baseless so I left,” narrated Obumneme to www.aclsports.com in India.
To an average Nigerian league player, anywhere else in the world is better than playing in Nigeria. However, Obumneme seem to find the situation he met in India back in 2012 a lot in semblance to where he came from – Nigeria – and spoke on the similarities between the second division where he started from and his beloved Fatherland.
“It was difficult in the beginning,” admitted Eze Obumneme.
“There was no good facilities and the clubs were not so professional,” he added.
“But it was similar to Nigerian kind of lower clubs and I was used to it so I was able to use whatever things they had and made the most of it.”
After three seasons in the lower division, he excelled in his first season in the top flight I-League, playing a key role in the victory of underdog Aizawl FC in their league success where he featured in all but one of their league games.
The left back has since joined another top division side Mohun Bagan AC ahead of the new I-League season, his second season in the top flight.
“I am looking forward to a great season ahead. The responsibilities and expectation is high and the league will become interestingly difficult because they have increased the number of foreign players (each club can sign).”
Unlike the Indian Professional League, Bollywood – the Indian Entertainment Industry – has many followers in Nigeria who most times are amused and entertained by series of magic on display on their Television.
That, and a very popular age-long fable of India thrashing Nigeria by as much as ninety-nine goals in a football match has helped shape opinions of many Nigerians that Indians are masters at voodoo powers, called Juju in local parlance.
Obumneme also had such beliefs before getting to the Asian nation but has since found out they are untrue of Indians.
“Well, I believed such (stories) too while I was still in Nigeria only to come here and realized that they were untrue.”
“Football is the same everywhere even here. Moreover, the club I played for last season (Aizawl FC) are owned by Christians and most players here are Christians too,” he concluded.
Additional reporting Amos Joseph