As the 2022 season progresses, we caught up with Vandrezzer FC's central defender Abraham Opara, who bares it all about his background, relationship with a current Super Eagles player, his aspirations, and his time so far with the Champions of Lagos.
The Lions' No. 5 also reveals why he is called the "Chief Eater" of the team, and has an emotional message for VFC supporters.
Enjoy the chat.
V: Let's meet you.
O: My name is Abraham Chidekwu Opara, born August 28th, 2002 in Imo State. I'm from Orlu Local Government Area in Imo State. The mother's name is Chinyere Opara, and my father's name is Emmanuel Opara.
V: How was life growing up?
O: It wasn't easy because my dad did not earn much when I was a kid. But after a while, God favoured us and he travelled to Italy and worked there for about seven years before returning to Nigeria. So all those years during my primary school years, and shortly after, it was my mum who catered for us with what my dad was sending, in addition to what she got from her job.
V: And football, at what age did you start taking it serious, and did you get encouragement from your parents?
O: I have always loved playing football since the days I was a kid. I finally got approval from my mum on a day I went with my brothers to watch a football game. When we got back, I summoned courage to tell her I wanted to be a footballer. Thankfully, she gave me her blessing and said "if that's what you want, then go ahead since I see you already have the skill."
I was still in primary school and so from then on, I played football at break time and closing time. I got more encouraged when one of our game prefects saw me and told me that I was good and could go places with football. I was so grateful to him and I decided to put in more effort, interest, and training. My parents also supported by buying me boots, my dad would send money to get all I needed for my trainings. They realized that football was big business and I could become I big pride and support for the family if I made it.
V: That's quite encouraging because you know some young people want to play football and their parents refuse. You must feel very lucky.
O: Yes I am. But ultimately, even if your parents don't approve or support, it all depends on the zeal and passion of the person. Like the story of Super Eagles goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho who was one of my senior teammates few years back in Campos Academy, Owerri. I remember then, his parents didn't support him playing football and always stopped him from coming to training. So he kept sneaking out to train with us and one day his mum found out, and had storm the training ground to warn the coaches never to train him again. I understand that they wanted him to go to school, but he wanted football instead. Later we heard his father finally asked him to choose what he wanted, he said football and the man gave him some encouragement. Today he's in the Super Eagles, I'm sure his parents would be happy now he has made it.
V: It seems Uzoho's story is an encouragement for you.
O: Ofcourse it is. When I see him on TV I get excited and picture myself on the big stage as well. It hasn't always been rosy for him in the national team, but he's a very good goalkeeper. I love seeing someone progressing in life and wish that for myself.
V: I am sure it is also your dream to play for the national team.
O: One hundred percent! I believe it's just a matter of time. And when my time comes, I will surely shine.
V: So let's talk about the time now. Tell us how you got to sign for Vandrezzer FC.
O: Last mid-season, my coach told me VFC was doing a screening of players, and asked me to go and try. As God will have it, after the screening, I was one of those signed. I was surprised because there were other great defenders, but I was happy all the same because it was God and my hardwork that saw me through. I immediately called my mum, told her the good news and asked her to Google VFC on the internet. She was surprised, and said "my son you are very lucky, this team is a big team like a club in Europe." And she is right, being in Vandrezzer is a privilege, I don't take it for granted. Many people are praying for it and many people want to be in this position. I'm here today so I have to thank God. It wasn't easy.
V: Before VFC, where and where did you play?
O: I started with Campos, then Niger Tornadoes, two years ago before leaving to Collins Edwin from where I joined VFC.
V: The same Campos FC we will play on Matchday 10?
O: Yes the same one.
V: So how would you describe your time with Vandrezzer FC so far?
O: First of all, being part of the Lagos FA Cup win is the highest point so far. The FA Cup is a very big tournament and winning it is a very big dream come true. When I was at Campos, we couldn't win it in Imo State, it also wasn't possible in Niger Tornadoes and Collins Edwin. But now in Vandrezzer, God made it possible for me to play and win it, and I thank God so much for that. For me, I think I have proven myself for the team that I can work hard and also ready to give my best anytime I am called upon by the coaches.
V: So what are we looking forward to this season?
O: The target is to secure promotion. Nobody can predict what will happen tomorrow, only God knows. We have 10 points now and the table toppers have 18 points, so we definitely have a chance. If we draw or win our next away game, then come home to win, we will be in a good place so we are still on course for the target.
V: Many fans and pundits actually believe with the commendable technical and welfare structures on ground, Vandrezzer FC should be topping the table by now. How would you respond to this?
O: The road is still long and you'll expect that every team is looking for maximum points to be on top of the table. We are currently in 5th position, I believe that we are still going higher. We just need to learn from our mistakes and get used to playing on some pitches, then we will be good. Just watch out for our next performance.
V: What can you say about the current spirit in the team?
O: We are all friends and very united in our goal of securing promotion. The coaches are the best and we all have a good working relationship.
V: This season you're pairing a different set of defenders from last season. How has it been especially with the new set - Bassey and Owolabi?
O: You know this is football, it is important to adapt to the teammates on ground because people will come and go. Bassey is a very good defender and nice to play with. I haven't paired with Owolabi in any game yet but he's also a great player and does well when on the pitch. They are both nice guys to work with and we are friends off the pitch.
V: On a lighter note, your teammates have said you are the "Chief Eater' in the camp. Tell us about that.
O: (laughs) That's because I eat a lot, and they believe nobody can eat as much as I can. Growing up, my mum fed us a lot and she even told me when I was a kid, I used to always request for more. Maybe that's why I am tall (laughs).
V: So what's your favorite food?
O: Fufu and okra soup. That's the only food that can hold the stomach for it to last, even when it digests, it holds your stomach and you won't get hungry easily.
V: Will this your love for food grow into you owning a restaurant some day?
O: That's actually in my plans and I have been dreaming about it for few years now. I am someone who does not like seeing people hungry, it makes me feel bad because when I am hungry I feel uncomfortable. So I want to feed people.
V: Do you cook?
O: Yes I do. When I was little, I stayed with my grandmother and she taught me to cook, soup, rice and other things. From there, I improved and now I can cook different foods.
V: Interesting. We look forward to verifying your cooking skills. Meanwhile, if you were not playing football, what other sport would have done?
O: Hmmm....if it was not football, I would have been in track and field. I loved running when I was little and maybe would have worked on it because I have long legs, but I loved football more, so I focused on it.
V: We can't go without asking who your football idols are.
O: Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Those are the two players I loved so much during their playing days, and even now I still watch their videos.
V: Great. Before we go, any message to the fans?
O: To the fans - I say a big thank you for the support you give to us. It isn't easy for you guys to do such things, stay with us during the good and rough times; following us social media, coming to the stadium, and encouraging us to gain promotion to the NPFL. We read your comments and I believe by God's grace we will make you happy. I also want to use this opportunity to invite everyone to the stadium on home match days. Last season was tough without fans, but now that fans are allowed, we call on every supporter to join and cheer us up every other Friday at the Teslim Balogun Stadium. Even as they support us silently and digitally, we need their physical support as well.
I also want to appreciate the club president, I see the good work he has been doing, actually I've not seen such a team before, this is the first time most of us are experiencing a well organized football club. The president is a very good man so we promise that we will also make him proud. We did it in the FA cup and we saw that how happy he was so we will do it again. I also thank the coaches, staff and other members of VFC management, everyone is doing their best. On behalf of my teammates, we assure that the best will certainly come.
V: And we are definitely looking forward to that Abraham Opara. All the best and thanks for speaking with us.
O: The pleasure was mine. Victorious Together!
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