Footballer turned priest reforms kids in Nigeria

Written by: Sujata Sarkar
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Bengaluru, Jan 2: Former Nigerian footballer Chibuzor Nwakanma who had played for Kolkata giants East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan has become a priest.

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The Nigerian footballer was a popular name in the Kolkata Maidan in between 1985 and late 1990s. He was the first Nigerian footballer to play in India.

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Despite playing alongside the then superstar Chima Okorie, Chibuzor earned special attention from the football Pundits for his blistering speed, both with and without the ball.

The forward, after retiring from the game in 1998 from Churchill Brothers, where he scored seven goals in the 16 matches, Chibuzor chose a completely different profession.

Having studied with Theology Chibuzor always had an interest in the religious matter. As an aftermath, the former Nigerian footballer chose to be a priest and began to live at Imo in Nigeria.

But very recently he has again changed his mission. Along with working as a priest in a church, Chibuzor has set a small football residential coaching centre in Lagos, Nigeria.

There he offers training and rehabilitation to young boys only who have been driven crimes at an early age.

Speaking from Lagos over the phone recently, Chibuzor said: “I was feeling very sad, watching the kids getting them involved in different types of criminal activities.

"Initially, I tried to understand them trying to bring into normal life. But that did not work. Then I thought football could be an effective ingredient to mold them.

"So along with one of my friends, I set up a small residential coaching centre in Lagos and invited some of those boys to play the game.

"This effort had finally clicked. Formidable amount of boys have come to my coaching centre. They do not only play football, they also have started studying.”

Commenting on Kolkata, Chibuzor said: “I have a wonderful remembrance of Kolkata where I had stayed for a long time. I had enjoyed staying there.”

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