By Pius Ayinor
The National Principal’s Cup is rounding off this weekend in Abuja but not without introducing to Nigerians another promising goalkeeper in the name of Obioma Pascal Uzoho. The young goalie is a sibling of Super Eagles goalkeeper Francis Uzoho. The young player is hitting the national scene speedily like Francis.
Eagles goalkeeper Uzoho was hardly in reckoning for a national goalkeeper’s position by early 2017 even though he was with the Nigeria U17 side in 2013. It was the period Nigeria battled Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia for a place in the 2018 World Cup. And the Eagles did qualify for Russia 2018.
But the Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr and indeed Nigerians generally were not satisfied with the goalkeeping department. A long reliable goalie in Vincent Enyeama had unceremoniously retired from the team and then a health challenge removed Carl Ikeme from the national goalpost.
The desperation for a goalkeeper Nigeria could call a Number One took Rohr to Spain where Uzoho was in business for Deportivo La Coruna. Quickly, Rohr threw the young goalkeeper at the front burner culminating in Francis standing confidently at the goalpost for Nigeria at the 2018 World.
The next World Cup is in Qatar but the Nigerian youngsters are busy playing the Principal’s Cup which has been introduced to run at the national level. The football competition for secondary schools in the country is championed by the Sports minister Sunday Dare and supervised by his ministry. The hope is that young players would be discovered. Well, they don’t have to look far as ExtrasportsNigeria.com has seen a good surprise in goalkeeper Obioma Uzoho. The Principal’s Cup has thrown up a teenager Nigerians would be eager to see how well he progresses.
In the past we have seen football and indeed sporting families in Nigeria where their parent or older siblings have been a huge influence on the careers of those following. Elder Okosieme gave Nigeria two national team players in his son Ndubisi and his sister Nkiru who also played for years with the Super Falcons. There was Segun ‘Mathematical’ Odegbami before we got Wole Odegbami who was also a winger with the Eagles. Austin Jay Jay Okocha remains a household name but before him the Eagles had seen Emma Okocha.
Nigerians are now used to watching Francis Uzoho but Pascal is determined that he would be seen one day in goal for Nigeria.
“I have always seen my brother (Francis) as a goalkeeper and that caught my attention,” Pascal told Extrasportsnigeria.com, “But it became more than a challenge for me when he made the junior national team. The biggest joy and boost for me has been sitting around with family and friends to watch him on national television.
“My brother has really inspired me; I like what he is doing and I am working hard to be like him. I pray that I succeed.”
Pascal has a ‘big brother’ in the Eagles and in Europe and so he lacks no equipment for his training and development. He is determined to put the kits to proper use and develop himself possibly professionally.
The father of the Uzoho goalkeepers Mr. Cletus Uzoho is taking the same position he took when Francis set out as a goalkeeper early in life. He is giving every moral and physical support to Pascal but will not push him beyond his natural abilities.
“If his capacity can take him to that level (the level of Francis), I will appreciate it. It would be of so much glory to God and we would all be grateful to God for it,” says Mr Uzoho.
The young Uzoho is playing with his school, Owerri City School, Owerri Municipal, Imo State in the football event of the 2021 Principal’s Cup as the number one goalkeeper. They are playing in Abuja this weekend as the competition rounds off.
They got through from the South East Zone in the competition held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu between Thursday March 18th and 22nd.
The North East Zone had their event at the August 27th Stadium, Damaturu while the North Central Zone played at the Rwang Pam Stadium, Jos. The North West Zone teams converged at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna while teams in the South West battled at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan with Sharks Stadium, Adokiye Amaesimaka Stadium and Civic Centre in Port Harcourt as the action spots for the South South teams.
The six finalists from these zones are in Abuja for the finals.