AFC Cup dream keeps Odafe at Churchill

May 1st, 2009 - 8:47 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) For star forward Odafe Onyeka Okolie the dream of playing for the I-League champions Churchill Brothers in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup is tempting enough to reject blank-cheque offers from the two top Kolkata clubs.

Not that Churchill’s eight-figure annual package is any less attractive for the Nigerian to think of a shift, it is just that he wanted to go back to Kolkata and erase his none-too-happy memories of the eastern metropolis six years ago when he was a raw youngster.

In the end, it was the AFC Cup that kept the 24-year-old back for the fourth season and Kolkata biggies Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will have to wait for another opportunity.

“I got irressistable offers from the two top Kolkata clubs, but I can’t exactly figure out why I stayed back. Maybe the dream of playing in an international tournament was too much to resist,” Odafe told IANS Friday.

“Every overseas footballer wants to play in Kolkata. I had the experience of enjoying the huge fan following. It is amazing but also adds to the pressure. In Goa there is less pressure and I have enjoyed playing here. But I would like to return to Kolkata,” he said.

Odafe, who had an unimpressive stint with Kolkata’s Mohammedan Sporting in 2003, feels that a good performance in the AFC Cup will bring better offers for him.

“Playing in the AFC Cup is a big thing for Churchill. A good performance in it will change our luck. So my priority is AFC Cup, not money. I am happy with the package I am getting here,” Odafe said.

He refused to divulge the actual figure, but at the same time he would not deny that the package is worth well over eight figures.

The Nigerian, who won the Golden Boot in the I-League for the third consecutive time, has reportedly settled for $200,259 annual bonanza, a figure unheard of in Indian football.

Asked whether the trend is a good sign for Indian football, Odafe said: “I hope so. But it all depends on the quality of footballers. There is a huge demand for good players but not many are around.”

Now that his stay with the Churchill is settled, Odafe is looking forward to the AFC Cup.

“I want to turn out for international clubs. AFC Cup can pave way for it. I am keen on doing well in the tournament,” he said.

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