Prince Ikpe Ekong has featured for the Super Eagles and he is now a top scout besides also grooming his own little football club – his four footballing sons.
Emmanuel Ekong is already a professional with Serie A club Empoli and has represented Sweden at U18 level, while Italy, where he was born, are also keen to cap him.
Shalom Ekong is 17 years old and has a twin sister, Sharon, while the younger twins, Elisha and Elijah, are 11.
Last week, Shalom joined his older brother at Empoli. He has been registered with the U18s.
Elisha is already among the best 11-year-olds at Brommapojkarnar, one of the biggest football academies in the world housing over 5,000 youngsters.
Elijah is the No 1 goalkeeper at the same academy for his age-group.
Football has been in the family bloodline beginning with their grandfather, who won a scholarship to attend school right to standard 6 in those days because of his skills as a striker or winger.
According to Prince Ikpe, an elegant midfielder in his hey days, his father came down to Lagos from their hometown of Etinan in Akwa Ibom State in search of a football club.
“He didn’t know anyone in Lagos, but soon met my mother and they got married,” he told SCORENigeria
“He now had to support his new wife and so he got a job in a hotel in Apapa, before he was employed by the Ikoyi Hotel, which was the best in Nigeria at that time.
“That was the end of his football career.”
He continued: “My dad was so happy when he saw my interest in football, but my mother did not want me to take the game as a career because of the frustration she saw my father go through to get a club in Lagos.”
Grandfather Ekong’s unbounded excitement about his son’s interest in the game will eventually cost him his job.
“I remember he was the only dad in my time who followed me and encouraged me when I played,” Prince Ikpe recalled.
“He was sacked because he was always changing his shifts at work so that he could see me play and be there for me.”
The father’s sacrifice was worth it after all as his only son will go to play for the Super Eagles and also professionally in Italy, Sweden and China.
He told SCORENigeria that he believes his playing experience will now help him to guide his four sons on the right path in their own quest for footballing glory.
“I am here to guide the boys not to make silly mistakes because of pressure,” explained the 42-year-old ex-football star.
The women in the family are also into the arts – Sharon is a designer, while her youngster sister Grace is 15 and already an accomplished pianist.
What of Mrs Ekong?
“She’s the technical adviser of the family,” the senior Ekong answered.
“The other day, she was trying to explain some tactics to the younger twins and they told her ‘mom, you’re not into football’.
“Her reply was ‘I have been with your father from his football playing days and till now that he’s a scout, that makes a total of 21 years, and you still think my knowledge doesn’t count.
“We all laughed, but she has a point.”