Former Golden Eaglets captain Nduka Ugbade has revealed exclusively to Naijasuperfans.com how he stormed the national youth team camp without an invitation, but ended up becoming the captain who led the team to World Cup glory at the FIFA U-16 World Cup at China ’85.
The 50-year old traced his foray into the game of football which was to give him fame and fortune as an accomplished international player.
Ugbade said: “I started football as a small boy like any other. Back then, Nigeria was very good with a lot of programmes for football and other sports. We had the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), we had the body responsible for primary school sports and the one for secondary schools competitions were organised on zonal bases and from there to the states and then inter states like the national sports festival. At the end of the day, you have a pool of players to choose from for any competition at any level.
“We had the Greater Tomorrow concept which is a wonderful idea by the way and we had academies and various youth clubs. So we started very early playing what they called ‘Felele football’ on the streets. Any open space was good enough for us and we made football from all sorts of materials.”
Ugbade graduated from that street soccer to an organised competitions when he started playing for Samco Stars and was spotted by YSFON officials who included him in their plans from the age of 12.
“We were with the YSFON team under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. So we normally played national competitions since the age of 12 or thereabouts. We also were exposed to lots of international youth competitions like the Gothia Cup, the Dana Cup, the Cup of State in Brazil, Umbro Cup, Aberdeen Cup and the rest,” he recalled.
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However, when the time came for the formation of the U-16 team, Ugbade was not invited to camp alongside his former YSFON colleagues.
He narrates his journey into the team from where he launched his career into stardom.
“I was opportuned to attend one or two of these competitions with YSFON when I was like 12 or 13. Some few years later, they said there was this new YSFON competition. We didn’t even know it was a World Cup, all they called it initially was YSFON competition. So YSFON called some players to camp but I was not in the initial shortlist.
“Every Saturday, we used to go to
the National Stadium to play kick-about football which we called ‘set’. I saw the team at the National Institute For Sports training and I recognised some of the players that had been in the YSFON team with me, and some of them had been in Samco Stars with me. So I asked around and I was told that they were preparing for the YSFON competition.
The next day I went to LIdi-oro in Mushin and bought a rubber under-sole which I used my thread and needle to sew it to my sneakers. I went back to the stadium, but it took me two weeks of going there everyday before I was allowed to play.
“Other boys that were in the same situation with me had stopped coming but I persisted. The day they gave me a chance to play for 15 minutes, that was it. I impressed the coaches so much that they asked me to move into the camp and I became an integral part of the team. I later became captain of the team and led them to victory in China.
So, that was how I gatecrashed the team and became a World Champion,” Ugbade concluded.
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