Okolie, lethal and feared

Okolie, lethal and feared


Easily the number one striker in the country over the past three years, Odafa has consistently shown his prowess in front of the goal. In his time in India, the captain of I-League club Churchill Brothers has scored an astounding number of goals, averaging a goal per game.

He is widely tipped to overcome the record of his compatriot Chima Okorie, who has scored 280 goals, making hime the top-scoring foreigner in Indian football. The 25-year old Odafa has 109 goals from 105 matches, all for Churchill, and promises plenty more.

“I’m just blessed that I have got to score goals. But it is not just me; I have my team-mates to thank for everything that I have been able to achieve so far. Without them I would definitely not have achieved what I have achieved so far,” Odafa said.

He has put the Bangalore side Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club to the sword time and again, scoring four goals twice against the Aircraftmen in the Federation Cup in 2008 and the Durand Cup in 2007 and the current HASC captain agreed that the striker is the best in the business.

“Odafa is a really lethal striker. He is definitely one of the best forwards I have seen in India. And the worry is he just seems to get better and better,” HASC captain J Murali told Deccan Herald.

While it might seem easy for the big Nigerian to bang in goal after goal in the I-League now, it wasn’t such an easy journey. The six-foot tall African signed for Kolkata club Mohameddan Sporting in 2003 as a defender. He did not get a single game for Mohameddans and went on to play for Bangladesh side Muktijodhha Sangsad the following season, where he played in midfield, scoring 14 goals from 28 matches.

After some impressive performances for the Bangladeshi side, Churchill knocked on Odafa’s door in 2005 and from then on the 25-year old has never looked back.

“I’ve really had a good time with Churchill. Whatever I have done, the success I have had, has all been here. So I feel blessed to play here,”  Odafa said during a training session for his club in Bangalore.

Done well he has. In his time with the Goan club, Odafa has scored well over a goal a game. Not bad for a player who was originally signed in India as a defender. “I’m just happy to help whenever I can. It is my job to score goals and I’m happy to do it,” he adds with a cheeky grin.

He has scored 21 goals in the I-League this season -- he is again the top scorer -- in just 13 matches. But the Churchill striker considers this season as a bit of a disappointment, despite his team already clinching the IFA Shield in April under new coach Drago Mamic.

“I’m really not happy with this season to be honest. I like to play and I haven’t been able to play as much as I would have liked. I was out injured for three months and as a result I missed a lot of games, a lot of crucial games.

“I know I am still the leading scorer, because thankfully I’ve been able to score in most of the games that I have played in this year. I have been blessed in that department. But I would have preferred to play the whole season.”

Churchill are fighting for the I-League title and top the table with 47 points from 24 matches. They however, are not favourites for the title, having played more matches than their title rivals Salgaocar, Dempo and East Bengal.

“My team is good. We were one of the favourites for the title to start off with and we are still very much there. We have really good players who have stepped up when needed.” Ever since his prolific season a couple of years back, there have been rumours doing rounds that the Nigerian could decide to play for India. “I don’t really know what to say to that. If it happens it happens.” Press him on the subject, and he remains coy but his desire to play for India is obvious.

“I do see myself playing some time in the future. I will be glad to play for India. I think India have a good team, but we just have to wait and see. I can’t really say anything about it until it actually happens.”

Ask about who impresses him in the Indian team, the big Nigerian immediately points out one particular diminutive striker. “I like (Sunil) Chhetri a lot. I think he has all the talent in the world to make it big. To me he is the best stiker in India easily. He has good technical ability, good control, good vision and good finishing.”