IKENWA NNABUOGOR recounts the many escapades of Sam Sodje who went all the way to play for the Super Eagles…
If there was any football player done this, done that for the tough reasons in the English football, it’s no other than former Leeds United central defender, Sam Sodje.
From stooping to conquer injuries, freeing himself from the long arm of British laws on match-fixing allegations, raising his bars educationally to face harsh post-career challenges, wriggling out of transfer intrigues among clubs unscathed, to managing a successful business after retirement, Sodje has always been a man on a mission.
Born in England, raised partly in Warri, Nigeria, Sodje, one of the upsprings of the well-known Sodje dynasty, was always destined for the top.
Sodje is never one to quit living his dreams of being the greatest or the most influential in whatever endeavours he is engaged.
“There’s life after football, and I’m not sitting back and living on my past glory,” he says gleefully.
“I’m prepared and I’m facing it headlong because it’s not easy.”
Such was the big heart and willpower Sodje has in his repertoire that he’s always prepared for anything.
Football wise, Sodje enjoyed a steady rise from humble beginning to football in the Premier League in England.
Non-leaguers Frangers FC Warri, back home, grabbed this rare gem of a defender as soon as he was done with secondary school education at Government College, Ughelli, a popular school, where his England-based parents chose for their sons as soon as they were ready for come home from England to continue their social and cultural inclinations.
The Warri local side reputed to have nurtured some Eagles’ products like Joseph Enakhirire, Sam’s older brother Efe, and of course, Christian Obodo, horned Sam’s huge potential and before long he was back in England to continue his soccer career.
Margate, in the lower rungs of English football exchanged the baton nicely from Frangers. His development continued at another lowly English side Stevenage Borough and not until Reading ushered the fearless warrior into the big stage, Sodje was always going to be a defender with huge potentials.
Reading made sure Brentford lost their defender who won Player of the Season award a number of times.
However, his much-awaited sojourn in the Premier League with Reading was blighted by injuries, but he got his groove back in the championship where he excelled with an impressive goal scoring record even as a central defender.
A chance to fly with the Super Eagles followed thereafter and the warrior Sodje was surprised he could only manage just five appearances despite his immense potential.
Joseph Yobo, Obinna Nwaneri and Danny Shittu were preferred choices ahead of the former Charlton Athletic star.
Interestingly, Sodje’s five Eagles’ outings were assured leaving football watchers wondering why he didn’t do much for the Eagles.
Perhaps, Yobo and co were too good for coaches to start looking elsewhere.
Interestingly, Sam had been no strange face to Eagles setup as he visited his older brother during his time there and looked forward to continuing the Sodje dynasty in the Eagles.
“I also believe my younger brother Akpo would also come on board alongside me,” Sam had hoped.
“Eagles were a team that knew so much about having been always together with my brother Efe and hoped it would continue while our careers lasted.”
Unfortunately, it was not to be as Yobo reportedly conspired with his cronies to end his Eagles’ sojourn before it had even started.
Sam was not also new to controversies as he came out of two of them spelling of roses and putting his detractors to shame for, according to him, trying to drag the family name in the mud.
Match-fixing scandal and money laundering charges threatened to minus gloss to his career he worked so hard to build, but he was eventually cleared of all charges by the British courts.
Sure, Sam is a cat with nine lives and has demonstrated time and time again he’s one with big heart who can surmount all setbacks to be master of himself.
Just like he exhibited doggedness on the pitch during his playing days, Sam is not looking back off the pitch.
He appears even more dogged in his quest to keep his head above water post soccer career.
He’s currently a contractor with the Dangote Group with interests in tractor leasing, energy consultancy and general merchandise.
Sam’s company is a big player in the on-going construction of the refinery in the Lekki Deep Water free zones anchored by the Dangote Group.
Sam has also proved he could also show his skills in the construction sector as well as he excelled in the football during his hey days.
Indeed, he is enjoying his life after football…