Former Abia State governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, says Calabar will have nothing to offer the ‘Walyas Antelopes’ of Ethiopia come Saturday when they play Nigeria in a 2014 FIFA World Cup playoff.
Kalu believes the Ethiopians are coming to Calabar as tourists not for serious business as the Cross River State capital is now Nigeria’s football ‘Mecca’.
“Maybe they want to watch the Calabar Carnival, or enjoy the Obudu Mountain Race. If it is a World Cup ticket, the Ethiopians should wake up from their dream. Calabar is a no-go area, the cradle of Nigerian soccer,” said Kalu.
According to the former governor, the rich sports history enjoyed by the Cross River State capital all counts as odds against Ethiopia, who will have no chance of staging any surprise on Saturday.
“Calabar hosted the first football competition in the nation, the Beverly Cup in 1906.The first Secretary of our Football Association, Effiom Okon , who till date remains the only man to have served NFA as chairman and secretary came from the area.
“The first player to captain Nigeria overseas, Etim Henshaw, the longest serving NFA scribe Oyo Orok Oyo, who was also the first Nigerian member of the FIFA Executive Committee and Paul Bassey, first Nigerian sports journalist in the CAF Media Committee have a lot to do with the town,” Kalu added.
“The only time a service chief headed the NFA was in 1962. He was Louis Orok Edet. Nigeria’s first President Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who played for Lagos Diamond in 1923, began his soccer career at the Hope Wadell Training Institute in Calabar.”
He said that today, it is more than a mere irony that Eagles captain, Vincent Enyeama, is from the Calabar axis of the country.
“It is not just about history. Champions are brewed in Calabar. Think of the Golden Eaglets. Remember Nigeria’s first World Champion, Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey. If Governor Liyel Imoke was not diplomatic, he would have asked the Ethiopians to stay back in Addis Ababa,” Kalu concluded.