In this interview with JOHNNY EDWARD, 29-year-old Super Eagles midfielder Izunna Uzochukwu opens up on his travails in China and how an Ivorian lady won his heart during his loan spell at Danish club OB Odense
What prompted your decision to join a second division team, Aalesund, in Norway, after your big-money move to Meizhou Hakka in China?
I had issues with the club and I needed to play regularly to get back to my form again after being out of action for five months. Aalesund offered me that opportunity to re-launch my career and I am happy joining them. The target is to help them clinch promotion ticket back to the top division at the end of the season and we are on the right path. I felt good arriving in Norway and as a footballer, you have to prepare to face any challenge that comes your way. I’m pleased with the way things are going.
What are some of the issues that warranted the decision?
Well, it had nothing to do with football reasons and secondly, they (Meizhou Hakka) wanted me to take a pay-cut after my first season, which I refused and they opted to shut me out from the first team. It’s a normal thing that can happen to any footballer but because I know what I’m made of and what I can offer the team, I had to stand my ground. I don’t really want to go into more details about how I was treated because I did nothing wrong but I am so happy that I survived that tough moment. Sincerely, it was one of my darkest days in football.
Your move to Aalesund started on a good note with your team currently leading in the Norwegian second division league table, having won 10 games and drawn two. Interestingly, you have been named in the team of the week twice, how does this make you feel?
I am very pleased I must state. It has been a team effort but most importantly, I needed to prove that I could still play in a more competitive league, which is my motivation daily. When I arrived at the club, I made it known to my teammates that I want to get the team back to the Norwegian topflight and that is still the target.
No, I am not under pressure at all, but secretly there is someone that God has blessed me with and who has been a source of blessing to my career and we have a beautiful daughter. So I’m pleased with that.
Is she a Nigerian?
No she’s not but an Ivorian and resides in Denmark.
How did you meet her?
I met her through a teammate, an Ivorian while I was playing for OB Odense in Denmark. Her name is Carol. The first time I saw her, I had cold feet as I couldn’t say anything to her other than ‘Hola’. It was terrible. Our second meeting days later was perfect. When we saw each other again, it was then we could talk in a relaxed atmosphere, outside of the football environment. It was love at first sight for both. Sometimes, you meet someone and you just have a different feeling. Whenever I saw her, it was like a bomb went off inside me. Week after week, I slowly started to learn some French, so as to win her heart completely and if I was struggling, I would use my hands a lot to try to explain what I was trying to say to her. She thought that was funny but it wasn’t. Her place was close to a coffee shop in Odense and so to see her, I would need to stop by to pass time and see her. I was drinking so much coffee and it was so ridiculous. I probably asked her out 20 or 30 times. She never said no, but she was always giving excuses that she had to work and then go to bed.
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Why did you overlook several Nigerian girls and went for an Ivorian?
Nigerian girls are beautiful and amazing. I even dated a Nigerian lady, a female sports journalist, but settling down with Carol like I earlier said was a blessing to my career and she has been so supportive and hopefully, we will tie the knot soon. I think she’s not a mistake coming my way. It is so far, so good.
What went wrong with the Nigerian femle journalist?
Nothing really happened. We were just caught in the web of our career exigencies. Whenever I was around, she was chasing a story or in the office trying to meet up with certain deadlines.
So, Ivory Coast is now your second home now?
Yes, it is. It’s just a two-hour flight from Lagos– not far one bit. She made me to follow and support the Ivorian team during the Africa Cup of Nations but sadly, they lost to Algeria in the quarter-final. I was hoping the Elephants would beat Algeria to set up a semi-final clash with the Super Eagles so I could earn bragging rights over her but it was not to be. Regardless, my support would still have been for Nigeria.