I can’t remember the number of times I have penned about Chinedu Udoji on this blog. There probably was no week he didn’t get a mention back in the day when he still wore our blue. To get a call in the wee hours of Sunday night to learn of his passing is beyond shocking. And to think that I write here a tribute in his memory is unbelievable.
As a fan of Enyimba International, it was impossible not to know Udoji. Not only because he was our player but because he was one player who never shied away from his commitment to the cause. He gave 110% both when he was at his peak – a no nonsense tough tackling center back and when he began to wane a little and the errors crept into his game. Chinedu Udoji was a real colossus of a man.
Udoji was disciplined. Severally he would take extra hours at the gym to get himself ready while others were either at home or yet to resume. Udoji would tell of things he couldn’t join others to do because he was the captain and he needed to be the example. He was by no means a perfect person but he was committed to his duties both off and on the pitch and he was disciplined in the regard.
He rose to prominence at Enyimba, became a captain 2 years after he joined and winning a trophy in almost every season he was with us. Udoji’s name is echoed all over the country and he became a face of the NPFL and that was not just because of his agricultural tackles or because he was a big player in a big team, No. Every accolade that Chinedu Udoji ever got, he very well earned. He marshaled the defence well, he led the team by example and he was a big figure in the dressing room.
Udoji always admired John Terry who was the inspiration behind his famous #26 jersey. Like Terry, he was a captain who would play his heart out for his team. In the team bus back at Enyimba, he sat along the aisle, on a seat not too very comfortable and was as vocal as he could for his teammates. He was a good foodie but far from the loudest on the team bus. And interviews always started with “First of all, I’ll like to give God all the glory!” It doesn’t matter if it was a win, a draw or a defeat.
It is no coincidence that on the last day he chose to play football, he chose Enyimba International as the opponent. Even after the game, after kicking our strikers all over the park, he still apologized to them, after the game. He headed out to the Enyimba hotel where he met with his former teammates and club officials. Chinedu Udoji was a good man. Always spoke with fondness about his son, who he said he was careful to be a name good enough for him to look up to.
It is impossible to pen your life or indeed my experience of you in a blogpost. But like your former Markson Ojobo put it, “I have a lost a friend and a brother. A great man, a legend and not just me but our League has lost a great man. He will forever remain our hearts”.
Legends don’t die, they live forever. Udoji lives forever, forever in our hearts.
Forever our captain, rest in peace.