SAM OCHEHO, a name associated with the Handball Federation of Nigeria and the banking sector but many have little or no knowledge who Ocheho is outside handball likewise the corporate world.
Ocheho was a former handball player who had to put an end to his career after he got a bank job in 1999. From there on, it has been one role to another across the banking sector for the Kogi indigene.
Ocheho was head of training at First City Monument Bank Limited in 1999. Three years later, he moved to Skye Bank and later got a job with Stanbic IBTC Bank where he has been working till date. The current General Manager, Head Global Market Nigeria has had a steady rise in the banking sector similar to his playing days.
Despite not playing the game like he would have, his dream is to make handball second most popular sport in Nigeria.
While having a chit-chat with Ocheho at the Rowe Park, Yaba on a cool afternoon, he explained how he started playing the game and why he chose it ahead of other sports.
“As a young kid in the barracks we were involved in every sport. I was initially playing football I remember we used to play Under-13 Youth Championship then I played at Enkalon Babes Championship, Abuede Babes we were playing at NTA playground, Tejuosho. After football I started playing volleyball at the barracks for the Army team and we were going for Championships.”
Ocheho continued, “They later introduced handball to my school, Command Day Secondary School Ikeja Cantonment. As children, we all played and they brought us to play at Rowe Park, Yaba and the next thing I was invited to play for the state team, Lagos State. I think that took the shine off every other sports what now nailed it for handball was that we went for the Under-18 Championship in Minna and as a young guy you represent your state and went as far as Niger to play and on our way back we had little money to buy food stuffs for our parents and I think after then I didn’t look back.”
Ocheho played handball all through his Secondary School education and continued while in the University of Jos from 1990 but his career was short-lived after he got a job with a bank.
“I started playing for Vipers team of Jos in the Under-18, Under-21 and in the league. Immediately after I left school in 1995, I was in Abuja in 1996 for my Youth Service and after the youth service I got a job in the banking sector and that ended my handball career. With the banking job there was no way the national team involvement would have been on the cards,” the Accounting graduate revealed.
His passion and love for the sport is second to none and that propelled him to vie for a position in handball. From being the chairman of Lagos State Handball Association in 1998, Ocheho became the HFN President in June 2017.
“My passion for the game made me return. I love it and sometimes I ask myself did anyone do something to me that I should like this game? I can’t see handball being played without being involved one way or the other. My wife keeps telling me I love handball more than her I don’t know why she does this comparison I won’t blame her though.”
Lack of support from corporate bodies has been a huge challenge for Sports Federations in Nigeria. Ocheho admitted that it has been a great advantage being a part of the banking sector but he also pointed out some challenges.
“Being in the private sector has helped won’t lie about it. I can always continue to leverage on that to see how we can get more sponsors. It also helps me in administration.
“I am also faced with a lot of frustration when you bring in a lot of private sector mentality to a place filled with public sector mentality there could be that challenge but you just have to learn to navigate both waters and see how you can manage the people. I think that’s what leadership is all about but in terms of bringing sponsors, it’s a great factor that has contributed,” Ocheho concluded.