A Nigerian's crippled soccer dreams

When life became a football

However, it’s not yet all over for George who came to India dreaming to earn a quick buck by playing football in Goa and Kerala. With his body paralysed waist down, the 32-year-old will be a pale shadow of his old self. Hailing from families of poor agricultural labourers, George and Chukku had landed in Mumbai in 2007. However, they were arrested by the Kattappana police in Idukki district on December 8, 2007, for travelling without valid documents. The footballers say they were in Kerala to play sevens football in the Malabar region where it is a popular sport and that they were visiting Idukki district known for its agricultural produce.

The Kattappana Judicial Magistrate rejected their bail plea and the two were remanded in judicial custody.  According to Chukku, he was robbed of his purse, passport and visa in Chennai. With no sign of their sponsors and unable to communicate in English, the hapless youths landed in prison. While in jail, George suffered a stroke (posterior cerebral artery occlusion) which led to paralysis of his body waist down.

He was shifted to  Kozhikode Medical College and then to  Thrissur District Hospital for neuro rehabilitation treatment. Even though the hospital authorities had tried to contact the Nigerians’ families, they could not be traced. Relief came finally on May 26 when the Kerala High Court quashed proceedings against the two in the Kattappana Judicial Magistrate court. While the maximum punishment for those overstaying their visas and violation of the Indian Passports Act is a year, the duo had to endure 18 months of incarceration. Since the players had no money to travel home, they had to be deported.

The legal formalities for their deportation are over and the Nigerian Embassy had issued them emergency travel certificates, according to P K Kuttappayi, Superintendent of Police, Idukki. The two are slated to fly out from Kochi to Dubai and then to Lagos. Doctors at district hospital say Aadibe’s condition has improved and that he can be transported with some extra care.

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