Pakistan Premier Football League received a boost when it received a foreign professional player in the shape of the Nigerian striker Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday. The 20-year-old forward has been hired by the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC). Unfortunately, he missed 16 matches of the season because he could not manage visa in time.
His debut was successful as he struck the winner in his first game against Chaman’s Muslim FC and struck two sublime goals in KESC’s 4-0 triumph over Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the two matches the foreigner has played so far in the 240-match marathon, which has entered into a crunch stage with six teams to be relegated and the title aspirants not knowing their fate yet.
Although another Nigerian Akeem Abbas represented Wohaib FC a few years ago, he was an ordinary player and his inclusion in the league was also disputed.
But Oludeyi’s case is different. He looks a real player. His contract with the KESC has been finalised by former English Premier League player Jay Jay Okocha.
"Okocha has done everything for me," Oludeyi told ‘The News on Sunday’ in an interview. "He told me to go to Pakistan and play and I will be paid. I love Okocha. He is my mentor, my benefactor. He is a big name in Nigeria’s football. I met him a few years ago in a programme and since then we have been very close. He is my coach and I have learnt a lot from him."
If Oludeyi does something remarkable for KESC there is a fair chance that he will be called for the next season as well.
Oludeyi is determined to score more goals for KESC. "I missed half of the season because of the visa issue. I want to score more goals and prove my selection right. I believe in KESC as they have a good attack and a fine goalkeeper in the shape of Jehangir. If we are able to convert chances then we can win the league," Oludeyi said.
Having got experience in the 2009 Under-17 Homeless World Cup in Milan, Italy, Oludeyi seems a skilled and clever forward. On his debut against Muslim FC he was a bit scared and fell six times in that show, which was witnessed by a huge crowd at the KPT Stadium.
"Yes, initially I was a bit scared. Actually, when I came to Pakistan and saw the league game I felt that it was so easy. But when I took the field, I came to know that it was too physical," Oludeyi observed.
"When I scored goal in my very first match against Muslim FC my former coach Sokda called me from Nigeria. ‘Sunday, you scored,’ he asked. I said, ‘yes’. He became very happy. It was Skoda who groomed me when I was a child. I am very thankful to him for the love he has in his heart for me. Skoda has not coached at a high level but he was a good coach at club level and really experienced. Now he is not doing coaching. In the past he used to run a club," Oludeyi said.
The Karachiites have given great honour to Oludeyi. He was extended a warm reception by the crowd when he came to watch a game at the KMC Stadium as the whole crowd clapped and welcomed him. And when he was playing his first match against Muslim FC, the crowd had a soft corner for the foreigner. When any one charged him the crowd shouted at the referee to give that player red card.
The player has realised this and admitted that he is being given great respect by the Pakistanis. "May be some people don’t like me. But I am happy that around 70 percent of them like me and it’s great for me. Whenever I come across any one at the stadium or outside I am respected and it is always a special moment for me," Oludeyi remarked.
Oludeyi, who studied at the Community Secondary School in Lagos, joined Golden Boys Academy in 2007 and after that played for several clubs, including River FC and Oyo United.
He did not sign for any club for this season because of his commitment with KESC. Oludeyi hails from a poor family. His father Olusola, 66, has retired from a company. His one brother Seun is jobless; Kemi has a small shop; while Sunday works in a church.
"We are very poor. We are four brothers and two sisters. We live in a rented house. My brothers give me some money whenever they have. My father has retired from a private company. My mother Fausat separated from my father when I was just six months old. My mother remarried and lives near us with her husband. She is a Muslim and performed Hajj in 2009-10. My father is Christian. I am also Muslim. I also offer prayers. I did not pray here but will pray afterwards. There is no restriction on allegiance in our society. You can adopt any religion without any pressure," Oludeyi narrated.
Oludeyi sees a better future for Pakistan football. "Pakistan has talent. Football can improve here. Pakistan should bring in more foreign players for the league to become stronger. Besides, the players here need exposure," said Oludeyi.
KESC have set a good example. Next season, other clubs will also follow them. The involvement of more foreign players will make the league more competitive. It will also attract media and sponsors. I hope good days are awaiting Pakistan football. But the teams aiming to bring in foreigners should make commitment with them well before the start of the league. By doing so they will be able to get NOC in time and the visa process will be completed in time.
The government should help football clubs bring foreigners for the league as KESC took more than two months in processing the case of Oludeyi.
Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa had also struck a deal with two players of Afghanistan for his club, Pak Afghan Clearing Agency (PACA), but the government did not issue the NOC.
Having established several football houses through the assistance of FIFA, Pakistan now is in a better position to develop its football. But it will be able to do so only when the Premier League is developed. It currently has several flaws.
A better league will yield better players and so the national team will ultimately be benefitted.