Unsong back home, unheralded by the media in South Africa, James Okwuosa deserves more than he’s presently getting, IKENWA NNABUOGOR challenges soccer watchers to accord the tough central defender a lot more respect…
James Okwuosa was 18-year-old rookie from Lobi Stars the late Super Eagles coach Shuaibu Amodu first invited to the national team as Nigeria fought for a ticket to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
Amodu defended his surprise call-up: “Okwuosa is one of the most promising young central defenders in Nigeria now and I made no mistake inviting him.
“He will learn from the big boys and I tell you in few years he will be a finished article.”
True to his word, Enugu Rangers snapped him up soon after and Okwuosa in no time became the most sought-after central defender in Nigeria.
However, Okwuosa has continued to be overlooked by the Eagles coach Gernot Rohr.
On current form, Okwuosa is one of the super regular central defenders from this country and should be a deserved inclusion on the squad as they prepare for a sixth World Cup finals in Russia in June 2018.
The heart of the Eagles back-four is currently manned by the “Oyibo Wall” of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong, but they will be put on their toes by the inclusion of Okwuosa.
He is a player who has dominated the South African Professional Soccer League like a colossus, but has been treated like a small fish in the pond.
The former Enugu Rangers’ captain deserves a lot more respect than he’s getting from the media in South Africa.
Were Okwuosa a South African, the media there would have forced the Bafana Bafana captain’s band on the tough Chippa United exciting centre-back.
Okwuosa has been there, done that in PSL but the media attention is anything but great. Should he now break his legs or score 35 goals from his defensive position to get the media mention he deserves from the South African press.
The former El-Kanemi Warriors’ star has been ever-present in the Chilli Boys’ rear harrying strikers, stopping balls, kicking out dangers, heading clear, keeping things tight at the back and ultimately shouting himself hoarse while organising the defence and yet these qualities get just little mention.
To make things even worse, his name is badly pronounced, making him look like ordinary player.
Okwuosa is to the Chilli Boys what former Bafana Bafana captain Lucas Radebe was to Kaizer Chiefs before he moved on to England to play for Leeds, yet he was accorded every respect he deserved in South Africa.
Why then is Okwuosa’s case different?
His agent former Super Eagles star Mohammed Lawal said he is also baffled.
“I’m not surprised at the poor recognition Okwuosa is getting from the South African media because they would rather praise their own and praise foreigners less,” he said.
“I played here and I know what obtains as a foreigner.
“No doubt, Okwuosa is one of the best central defenders in the PSL but he’s not celebrated as he should.
“The commentators would always mention his name less as if he is not doing anything whereas he’s the busiest player on the pitch.”
Okwuosa told SCORENigeria he is not bothered by the lack of recognition.
“The media cannot pull me down, I’m really not bothered because I’m focused,” he said.
“The aim is to do better in every game and I can’t be affected by whether they give me good mention or not.
“I know I deserve more than I’m getting at the moment, but I’ve come to understand the mentality in South Africa and I don’t get worried about it.
“I thank God for my career in South Africa and I ask Him to continue to be with me.
“Chippa United have been great with me and I’m happy we have come this far and we hope to crown it with a title soon.”
Coaches come and go at Chippa United, but Okwuosa has continued to catch the eye of coaches, who have always handed him huge responsibilities to keep things as tight as ever at the rear. He has refused to disappoint.
Having arrived from Ajax Cape Town where he had first tried out, the Kaduna-born star has continued to hold his own at Chippa and is one of the reasons the erstwhile newly-promoted Port Elizabeth side has not only continued to keep their PSL status, but also contend for honours.
Soon, he would be handed that captain’s band as he cemented his place at the rear for the Chilli Boys.
A dream move to Orlando Pirates last season was short lived and nightmarish for Okwuosa, but Chippa United opened their arms at the start of the new season to welcome their most prized star as he was given the presidential approval to continue from where he left off.
His outstanding and assured performance recently in a PSL league game against Mamelodi Sundowns earned a deserved Man-of-the-Match award as he kept Khama Billiat and company at bay to end the tie at 0-0.
This is one player who deserves a lot more than he is getting.