During that U16 World Cup in China in 1985 a player for the Nigerian team stood out with his white head band. He was centre back Kingsley Akhionbare. Akhionbare it was that was assigned by Coach Sabara Brodericks to man mark the German top scorer, Marcel Witeczek in the final. A job he carried out successfully.
11 years later, Akhionbare died in London of stomach cancer. He was survived by a son, Kingsley Junior who was a few months old by the time his dad died. Kingsley has grown up in London with his mum and they were kind enough to finally speak to a Nigerian journalist. He is also a footballer and has signed to play for Herne Bay Football Club. The Kent club play in the Isthmian League Division One South. He had been a semi-professional at Carshalton Athletic while studying at University of Northampton.
Last year when the Federal Government of Nigeria wanted to honour the promises made to that 1985 team, Junior in London was ignored as his paternal grandmother went ahead to represent her son. What did Kingsley know about his dad? “Very little to be honest. My mum used to tell me stories about how he used to wear a headband on the pitch” Junior says “What has been most frustrating actually is that all my online searches failed to give me anything about him in terms of videos”.
On that, the reporter inserts a DVD of the 1985 Kodak/FIFA World Cup final between Nigeria and West Germany. Right from the National Anthem, Junior is naturally emotional seeing his father in the line-up. Do you now understand why you are genetically driven to be a footballer “yes, very much so but I don’t think my mum understands this as she insists I must go to University first” he says with infectious laughter.
I understand why she wants me to get an education but if I had known about my dad’s history as a one of the winners of that world cup it would have driven me more. As a kid I knew I was talented but I did not really pursue being a professional, I would have been different if I had known this history of my dad’s.
Why didn’t you go to Nigeria for that reunion? “My mum is super protective of me. She said because we were not officially invited she was not ready for me to risk going”. Listening to the young man one got the impression he would have loved to go and make his case to the officials as the heir to his father but a love and respect for his mum made sure he did not force the issue.
Salisu Nakade who seemed to be the coordinator of the Reunion back said “We tried to contact his wife or his son but they were not able come so his mum came to represent Akhionbare”.
As at the time of the interview Nakade insisted that Junior would be invited to come to Nigeria. A little over a year after it has not happened. Junior and his mum don’t have bad feelings about Nigeria and Nigerians. They were very happy to have a DVD proof of Kingsley Akhionbare playing for Nigeria in China in 1985.