Eze Kingsley Obumneme is a Nigerian defender who has found his home in India’s I-league. He recently signed for Mohun Bagan Athletic Club based in Kolkata. With the I-League kicking off in a few weeks, the left-footed defender looks to helping the Mariners as the club is fondly called, achieve great things this season.
Eze opens up to PageOne.ng’s Amos Joseph in this exclusive interview on how he made his way out of Nigeria with hopes of greener pastures in India having been neglected by his Nigerian native club; Rangers International of Enugu.
However, before making his debut for an I-League side, Aiziwal FC, earlier this year, Eze Kinglsey Obumneme had played for lower division clubs such as HAL in Bangalore, Kalighat Milan Sangha, Police AC, United, and Peerless in the Calcutta Football League. He also represented Assam Dynamos and Dinthar of the Mizoram Premier League.
How and when exactly did Eze Kingsley Obumneme move to India?
I came to India because of the treatment I got from my previous club [Ranger International, Enugu]. I graduated from the feeder team but I was never given any contract as promised for almost one year so I thought that my staying there was baseless. That informed my decision to leave when an agent told me about India, promising to take me to a better place when I must have played here for one season or two but it didn’t happen as planned. I got to India August 2012, and I have been here since then.
You spent some years in the lower division. What was it like in terms of facilities and training?
It was difficult in the beginning because there were no good enough facilities and the clubs were not so professional but it was similar to what you would find in lower division clubs in Nigeria. Let just say I was used to it so I was able to adapt with the system and whatever things they had and made the most of it.
It’s your second season in I-League, what is your take on the league?
I played and won the league in my first season with Aizawl FC, and now I am with a new club with great history Mohun Bagan AC. The responsibilities and expectation is high and the league will become interesting and tough because the number of foreign players permitted in the league has been increased. I am looking forward to great season ahead.
What are you looking for in the next step of your career? Have you ever thought of playing else where?
The initial plan was to play here for one season or two and then leave. Playing elsewhere like major European leagues has always been on my mind and I will surely leave in no distant time. It is every footballers dream to play in national team and I am looking forward to it that why I need to leave and play elsewhere because getting a national team call up is very difficult or almost impossible when you play in this part of the world, not that there are no good players here but because it is believed that Indians don’t play football. The truth is that India league has improved a whole lot in the last two to three years.
Apart from you, which other Nigerian player plays in the league?
There are many other Nigerian players in the league here.
How did you feel when the Nigerian golden eaglet failed to make it to the recently concluded world cup?
Nigeria is known to be football loving country with very good and talented footballers from tender age all over the world, it was disappointing watching a world cup that Nigeria was not part of. But it is all part of the game, it happens.
On a lighter note, Nigerians back home believe Indians use voodoo, have you had any experience with Indian voodoo?
Well, I believed such too while I was still in Nigeria only to realized that football is the same everywhere and India is not an exception. Moreover, the club I played last season(Aizawl Fc) is owned by Christians and most players here are Christians too.
Who is your football idol? Why him?
Eric Abidal is my football idol. I used to play as a left back and I watched him play and loved the way he played and I always want to play like him.
How do you describe the Indian football fans?
Indian football fans are great, there love for the beautiful game is immeasurable and they are passionate about football.