Ogenyi Onazi has told SCORENigeria that he feared his career was over when he suffered an Achilles tendon injury, which kept him for almost a year.
He also opened up on how he cashed in on his musical skills to buy football kits.
The full interview –
SCORENIGERIA: How did your football journey start?
OGENYI ONAZI: It was a long journey. It started at Junior El Kanemi in Jos, before I moved to Aminchi Football academy in Bukuru, where I met the owner, ‘Coach Bros’ and explained my ambition of playing for Nigeria U17.
He said it won’t be an easy task, but he will try his best to help me get chance.
He did that for me, but at the last stage of the Eaglets screening I was dropped. There I met a friend who was from My Peoples Academy Lagos, owned by Prophet TB Joshua. I told him I want to meet the man of God, so he can pray for me to go for World Cup.
He prayed for me and promised to sponsor my football career. We went to Sweden, did well and the new U17 coach (John Obuh) called us and we made the World Cup.
Did your parents support you to make football a career?
My dad was not in support of that because my older brothers were head boys in school so all he wanted was for all of us to go to university. It was very tough for me.
Dad always burnt my football kits, but my mother always supported me. It was her influence that I used to train and get into the game as I wanted.
Jos is a city that is known for producing football stars, is there any factor responsible for this?
City of Jos is well known for producing stars as it has lots of hidden talents, who at a time did not have the chance to move abroad. After Mikel Obi joined Chelsea, that changed everything. I think football is a just a natural thing for Jos.
What are the challenges you faced when you first arrived at Lazio?
I faced lots of challenges at Lazio. The language barrier was big. The food and everything are different. We stayed at the training ground after training, while others went home to be withm their families. They return the following day to meet me and Sani Emmanuel there.
One needed to be strong mentally to survive.
Who really helped you settle down in Rome?
It was not easy being a young player from Africa, there were some senior players who encouraged us.
The coach then helped me, in fact there was a time I went to him to tell him I am fed up and tired, but he encouraged me that I have to keep working hard and let them see more of my talent. That I have to fight harder to achieve my goals, which I eventually did.
At Trabzonspor, you had Mikel and Anthony Nwakaeme as teammates, do you miss them?
Yes of course, we always hanged out together and it was always fun when we were together. After I returned from my long injury, I needed a platform to play regularly, so I decided to move and I have not regretted taking that step.
What was going through your mind while you were injured?
A lot was on my mind and head. I don’t pray for my enemies to experience such, it was not pleasant. If one were not strong, it may have been the end of my career.
I was thinking when will I put my foot on the ground? When will I start walking, when will I start jogging, when will I start running and so on?
Achilles Tendon injury is a very serious one.
I just put my trust in God to bring me back and better.
What do you miss about Italy?
It is a very strong league, I miss that. I miss the beautiful city of Rome and the pasta. Italian pasta is the best.
What is the difference between Onazi the bachelor and Onazi the married man?
There are stages in life. You enjoy life and do what you think is good for you as a bachelor, but when you are married you take decision for the entire family. I don’t regret getting married. I have a lovely wife and two lovely daughters.
What do you have to tell upcoming players?
Everybody wants to play at the top. They have to be focused, take training seriously because they don’t know who might be watching you. Be of good character, be respectful and grab the opportunity that comes your way. They really need to work harder.
What was behind you playing musical instruments?
Music is my passion. I watched my older brother playing musical instruments in church in Jos because I was not allowed in big church, I looked through the window to see my brother do it.
When we got home, I practiced on my own.
Music brought me quick cash as I get paid when I played at an event. It was that money I used to buy my football kits. Music has helped me and I can’t leave it. I am using it to serve God in my little way.
If not football, what would you have taken as a career?
There are lots of things I would have ventured into, but the most important thing is that God has directed me to where he wanted me to be.
Are you thinking about a return to the Super Eagles?
I thought I would be back before the last AFCON. I am still waiting. I will gladly answer my country when they call upon me.
What will you tell the fans?
I appreciate their support. Though some of them send nasty messages to us. What they should know is that no football player wants to play a game and lose, but at times things don’t just work out in games no matter how hard you try to do your best.
You can play so good at times and sometimes you play bad.
I will keep doing my best to make them happy. I appreciate them.
It’s my pleasure.