Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ezeji’s giant strides

Success at club level is determined by the number of trophies in a club’s cabinet. For Sharks (one of Nigeria’s oldest clubs), it has been a long wait since 1972, when the club was formed.
Sharks have never won the league. Three attempts in the Fa cup (1979, 2003 and 2009) were fruitless, but the story changed in 2010.
SuperSport’s Ojeikere Aikhoje profiles the exciting career of legendary NPL star, Victor Ezeji (pictured), whose goal turned Sharks from perennial under-achievers to Wafu champions.
Every club has its talisman. Experienced forward, Ezeji occupies that position at Sharks. This explains why the club fought rivals, Enugu Rangers; to keep him this term.
Today, the Wafu victory has justified that action as the importance of Ezeji to Sharks cannot be over-emphasised.
Ezeji clearly deserves a place in the Nigeria Premier League Hall of Fame whenever it is inaugurated.
The former Super Eagles fringe player has consistently excelled at all his previous clubs in the country. Ezeji played for defunct Eagle Cement, Dolphins, Enyimba and Sharks with a stint in-between at top Tunisian side, Club African.
He remains one of the most decorated NPL players in recent years with success in the League, FA cup and individual awards.
A famous transfer to Rangers was constantly foiled by the Sharks hierarchy to ensure Ezeji’s experience propels the club to glory.
Although the forward expressed interest in the Rangers deal, he had to remain to lead a gang of youngsters into the sub-regional competition dominated by top Nigerian teams like defunct NNB, Ranchers Bees, Bendel Insurance and Shooting Stars Sports Club.
Two other Nigerian teams; Niger Tornadoes and Lobi Stars failed to make an impact in the competition.
On the eve of the Wafu cup final phase in the Togolese capital, Lome, club scribe, Cyril Wite defended the decision to prevent Ezeji’s transfer to Rangers.
“Ezeji is one of the players registered for the new season. He has played a key role in our Wafu Cup campaign and we believe his experience will be an advantage when the season begins,” he said to SuperSport.com
As expected, Ezeji who scored some of the goals in previous matches hit target against Guinea’s Horoya in the semi-finals and fired the all-important goal that put the club’s name in the history books.
His decision to stay with Sharks for the Wafu cup has yielded the desired dividends.
Rivers state governor, Rotimi Ameachi promptly rewarded each player with a car and N500, 000 for their hard work.
The forward told SuperSport.com that the Wafu cup feat has made him the happiest man on earth.
“I have won trophies at all my former clubs in Nigeria and even Tunisia, except Sharks.
“The only reason that made me return to Sharks was because the club was yet to win a trophy. I’m a fulfilled player now because the story is different. Sharks can now boast of a trophy,” Ezeji added.
The forward remains one of the few Nigerian League stars to have won laurels at every club he has played for.
Ezeji won the league at defunct Eagle Cement, but announced his arrival in the Nigerian scene during his first sojourn at Sharks. Although Sharks ended the season without any title, Ezeji scored 16 goals to emerge joint top-scorer with Joetex Frimpong.
Aba Millionaires, Enyimba, eventually dragged both players to the club in 2003 to boost its Caf champions league campaign. It was a good year for the forward and his pal, Frimpong, as Enyimba won the elusive Caf champions league and the domestic league.
However, his romance with Enyimba lasted for only one season and he returned to Port-Harcourt and signed for Dolphins, which bought the franchise of his first team, Eagle Cement.
Ezeji led Dolphins to success in the 2004 Coca-Cola FA Cup (now Federation Cup).
He was there again when Dolphins defied a heavy down-pour to defeat Bendel Insurance on penalties to win the Coca-Cola FA Cup again in 2006. His impressive performance in the competition earned him the ‘Most Valuable Player’ award.
This was after Dolphins had won the Globacom Premier League and emerged as double champions in Nigeria.
Dolphins successfully defended the title in 2007 with Ezeji as the club’s talisman. It was the second time the club would triumph over Rangers in the Coca-Cola FA Cup. .
Career Goals
Ezeji remains one of the highest goal scorers in the history of the league.
He has remained consistent on the chart since 2002 when he emerged joint scorer with 16 goals.
The former Nigerian international holds the record of being the only player to have scored four goals in a single match since the inception of the Premier League in Nigeria.
On April 4, 2009, the forward tore the defence of Wikki Tourists to shreds and made the defenders look like a bunch of tourists at the Liberation Stadium. Fresh from his stint at Tunisia’s Club Africain, Ezeji scored in the 13th, 32nd, 43rd and 73rd minutes to set a Nigerian record.
Last season, he was the leading scorer in Sharks with 12 goals. His tally included a hat-trick as Sharks battered Ranch Bees 4-0.
This term, he has scored twice.
His stint at Club Africain was eventful as he helped the club win the Tunisian league after 12 years under the shadows of the more established trio of Esperance Sportif, Etoile du Sahel and Club Sportive Sfaxien.
Ezeji’s training as an accountant has boosted his technique.
He’s calculative in the box. Call him a fox-in-the-box striker and you won’t be wrong.
The forward’s comportment on-and-off the field clearly underscores his position as one of the few graduates in the Nigeria Premier League.
He is a testimony to the fact that football and education can go together with a degree in Accountancy from the respected University of Port-Harcourt. Perhaps this explains why he remains vocal when it comes to the welfare of footballers in the country.
Ezeji is clearly a role model.
The Name
For those who believe in the importance of names, it’s obvious that his name has worked for him. Victor has achieved giant strides from several victories at home and abroad.
The forward is happily married with kids.
Source: SuperSport.com

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