Victor Ezeji is undoubtedly one of the most experienced players and one of the most recognisable faces in the Nigerian domestic league, having been playing in the elite division since for 1996.
He broke out as a teenager in 1996 with his native side, Sharks FC of Port Harcourt.
For 19-years, Ezeji has stood amongst his peers and being able to record many landmarks playing in the colours of other clubs including Eagle Cement of Port Harcourt, now Dolphins; as well as CAF Champions League seasoned campaigners, Enyimba.
A Bachelor of Science Degree holder in Accounting from the University of Port Harcourt, Ezeji has shown that football was his first love with his sparkling performances over the years.
“Initially, I didn’t consider football as a career and was actually playing for fun until I was spotted and signed by Sharks FC of Port Harcourt after a grassroots competition as a teenager, and that changed everything,” Ezeji said in an exclusive interview with
Apart from being a part of the generation that won Nigeria’s first CAF Champions League trophy with Enyimba in 2003, he reckoned that the best moment of his career was in 2004, when he won a domestic double, League and FA Cup (Federation Cup) with Dolphins and was deservedly crowned the best player of the FA Cup after scoring a wonder goal and finishing the campaign with seven goals.
Ezeji is at the twilight of his career and is presently attached to his boyhood side, Sharks FC, however, he remains proud of his achievements over the years as he chatted his path from the grassroots to the top of Nigerian football. Below are excerpts of his interview with
You have come a long way playing on the domestic scene. How did you arrive at Sharks which was your first professional club in 1996?
It is a long story but I actually featured in a local competition in Port Harcourt which is called the Mock Nations Cup and I was actually doing my things not knowing that Barrister Chris Green (a current board member of the Nigeria Football Federation), then secretary of Sharks was in attendance. After the game, he told me ‘I did very well’ and he wants me to come for trials at Sharks. That was in December 1995 and in January I went to Sharks to begin a one-week trial. I was still in Secondary school and was just 14-years at the time.
This is interesting but how easy was it for you to play at that level at such a young age?
I was nearing 15 and I was given an opportunity, and I took it with both hands. Definitely, if you see a good player irrespective of his age, you will know. We have seen players of the same age in the English Premiership League and that was the same opportunity that was handed me.
I was a ‘star boy’ because my profile was on the rise in Port Harcourt at that period. And everywhere in town, they would tell you to just ‘go and watch one hell of a guy’. I was really a home boy that everybody wanted to see. I think that was what prompted Barrister Green to come and watch me. I think their plan initially was to drag me to the Sharks’ feeder team but when they saw my pace and hunger, they changed their mind. In fact, Adokie Amesiemaka (a former Nigeria International), who was chairman of Sharks at the time, was very happy because I’m a left-footer. That was how my career took off and I played for two seasons. Thereafter, I crossed to the other side of the city to join Eagles Cement (now Dolphins FC) who had just won the league so that I can I have the experience of playing on the continent.
What is your impression and experience since you have played for several clubs since 1996 on the Nigerian domestic league?
I think it’s been fantastic, because when I started playing in the league, there was keen interest so much that as early as 1pm the stadium was full with fans. It was real fun until the arrival of cable satellite came with the English Premier League and other European league. That was the beginning of the distraction and our stadiums gradually became empty. But overall, it has been a fantastic experience for me because, I have seen both the good and bad sides; and I’m still pushing.
At some point you were the highest paid player on the Nigerian local league, how did a 14-year-old boy arrive at such a milestone?
I think it was a reward for hard work. I’ve built myself over the years and there is no scandal attached to me. I managed to go to school and I’m a little enlightened than most of my contemporaries. My signing-on fee then was 9,000,000 (Nine million Naira) but the monthly salary was 2,000 USD (about N240, 000). Frankly, somebody somehow was going to be the highest paid player in Nigerian league and that was my time.
At 33, you are one of the longest playing players in the league, where do you draw your strength from?
I’m actually 34 now and I think my being here still playing is just the grace of God upon my life, because most of the people I started with are no longer playing. In fact, most that even started after me have all dropped off and so it’s just the grace of God that’s been keeping me because I’m not really a fantastic player (general laughter). If I’m fantastic, I should be playing somewhere in Europe. I have been lucky that I have never had any serious injury; I overcame minor ones and I’m still pushing on.
Throughout your career, your only time abroad was with Tunisian, Club Africain between 2007 and 2008. Since you played at Club Africain, how will you compare the standard of the Tunisian league to Nigeria?
If it’s all about football itself or the playing personnel, we are ahead of them but in terms of admiration, they are further ahead. They are well-organized and things are done in a professional way. We are not yet playing professional football in Nigeria rather we are just trying to catch up with countries like Tunisia.
What will you say has been the highlight of your career?
I think I would go back to the FA Cup we won in 2006 with Dolphins against Bendel Insurance; the game actually ended 2-2 but we won on penalties. But I can’t forget the fantastic goal I scored when I took the ball from the centre and meandered my way through all the Insurance defenders before slotting the ball into the net. That goal gave me the MVP as well as the top scorer of that year’s FA Cup. I think that was the high point for me.
•Culled from

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