As a 12-year old kid growing up in Lagos, Larry Ekundayo already had the dream of becoming a boxer and not the doctor, lawyer nor engineer his peers would readily say they want to be.
However, the journey to making that big dream turn to a reality has been all but rosy for Ekundayo whose name can be translated as ‘tears turning to joy’.
Ekundayo who arrived in Lagos on Monday from the United Kingdom ahead of a six-day tour in Nigeria told PREMIUM TIMES he is grateful for the initial setbacks he has been able to conquer and where he is now.
He also expressed optimism that with the kind of support he is now getting and the more backing he is working towards, he is very sure of still going far even at 36.
“I don’t just believe; I know I will still go very far, if there is someone like Bernard Hopkins who at almost 50 was beating young prospects, then I can do better,” he said.
Before relocating to the UK where he is now based, Ekundayo fought his way and was able to represent Nigeria at the 1999 All African Games as well at the 2002 Commonwealth Games but he was unable to make it to the Olympic Games thereafter.
“I would not say I regretted not winning any medals at these events… you live and learn, I learned from every defeat I suffered in my amateur career, yes I was disappointed but no regrets,” Ekundayo stated.
After honing his skills as an amateur boxer, Ekundayo soon turned pro and for him, his professional career has been rewarding and making up for the former disappointments and heartaches.
“I remember trying to go the Olympics back then for Nigeria but it didn’t work out, as a pro , I am making up for all the disappointments as an amateur and I am grateful to God and those that are supporting me,” he said.
Ekundayo shot into the limelight when he won the African Boxing Union Welterweight, ABU title in 2015 but he recounts that it was a tough period in his life and needed to dig deep to become a Champion.
He said: ‘I think I was out of action for like two years before that fight because my youngest daughter was diagnosed of cancer, but I came back strong to do what I have to do, that is my message for the youth that they should not be deterred by any situation they find themselves but make the champion in them come out.”
After his ABU title, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Ekundayo who admitted it not being easy combining working for a daily living and professional boxing together.
Things have however, gotten better for the boxer following the support he now has from the General Overseer of the Love of Christ Church, London, Rev. Mother Esther Ajayi.
Mrs Ajayi hosted Ekudayo in Lagos on Monday with several young people in attendance to learn from the resilience of the boxer who weathered the storm into stardom.
The first fruit from the massive support offered Ekundayo by the Love of Christ Church, LOC is the European International Boxing Federation welterweight which the boxer assures is the first of many still to come.
“No disrespect to the former champion who I defeated but sincerely with the support I got from LOC, it was very easy for me to win, that kind of support has been missing for me for several years but I thank Mother Esther for coming to my rescue”
Still hoping for more support coming through, Ekundayo who is billed to visit President Muhammadu Buhari, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode and former Lagos Governor, Bola Tinubu during his Nigeria Tour said he already has his plans at helping the glory days of boxing return to Nigeria.
Among other things, Ekundayo said he is looking to setting up boxing academies in Nigeria and London where he can groom fighters to fight across the world.
Remo Stars Unveil New Coach
Newly-promoted Nigeria Professional Football League side, Remo Stars, have officially unveiled Kennedy Boboye as their new technical adviser for the season.
Boboye has been handed a one-year contract.
Remo Stars are one of the four teams that were recently promoted from the Nigeria National League to the elite cadre and the Sagamu-based club are looking to make a statement this season at least judging by their choice of coach.
Boboye helped Plateau United to win the NPFL in the penultimate season and while it may be a tall order to replicate same immediately at Remo Stars, he would be required to do the minimum which is to ensure that the Sky Blues do not go on relegation again.
While the coming of Boboye is being celebrated, some are still taken aback by the unceremonious exit of coach Fatai Osho from Remo Stars.
It is understood that Coach Osho who helped Remo Stars to gain promotion back to the NPFL was asked to work under Boboye, but the man fondly called gaffer opted to resign instead of working as an assistant.
Osho said he quit Remo Stars because he would not work under another coach in Nigeria as that would affect the football philosophy he has worked tirelessly to develop.
Despite his exit, the young gaffer said he still has Remo Stars close to his heart.
Aside from Remo Stars, Coach Osho has handled a couple of other Nigerian clubs including Crown FC and Supreme Court FC of Abuja.
CAF Champions League: Lobi Stars face tough away test against ASEC Mimosas
Nigeria’s representative in the CAF Champions League, Lobi Stars, will be playing away to ASEC Mimosas at Stade Félix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan this Saturday.
This is the first-ever meeting between both sides and it is quite crucial.
While Lobi Stars got all three points in their opening group game against Mamelodi Sundowns, ASEC lost 5-2 in Casablanca to Wydad and will thus be gunning for a favourable result at home.
This season, ASEC Mimosas have kept clean sheets in four of their five Champions League fixtures and won all two matches in their 45,000-capacity ground located in Le Plateau district of the Ivorien economic capital.
ASEC won the CAF Champions League in 1998 when they beat Zimbabwe’s Dynamos FC 4-2 on aggregate in the final. That is their only triumph in the competition.
Among other tactics that would need to be deplored, Lobi Stars will have to tighten their defence particularly in the first half as past matches show that ASEC had scored in all their home fixtures within the first 45 minutes.
ASEC’s danger man is Abdoul Tapsoba who has two goals to his name in five matches.
The Pride of Benue, as Lobi Stars are called, are aware they need to be at their best in Abidjan and they have promised to put their best foot forward.
“We know ASEC are a very good side and we can’t judge them with the loss against Wydad,” Lobi Stars’ new recruit from Enyimba, Oluwadamilare Ojo, told CAFOnline.com. The midfielder was the man-of-the-match against Mamelodi Sundowns.
“Though we respect ASEC because of their pedigree and being former winner of the CAF Champions League, we would ensure we return Abidjan with a positive result.”
Lobi will hope that Sikiru Alimi will be in his elements. He converted three of the team’s seven goals in the campaign.
They will, however, miss the services of John Lawrence who will be serving a two-match suspension as a result of his involvement in an incident last December in Kenya when Lobi Stars faced Gor Mahia.
Coach Solomon Ogbeide believes his squad can build on their bright start against 2016 Champions, Sundowns.
“We haven’t won anything yet but we can now build on the victory against Mamelodi Sundowns to focus on the game against ASEC.
“We have a good spirit; and remains positive going for the game, and we are going to take the game to them in Abidjan,” Ogbeide assured.
In the other fixture of the group, Mamelodi Sundowns play host to Wydad Casablanca at the Lucas ‘Masterpieces’ Moripe Stadium in Pretoria, also on Saturday.
Israel-based striker seeks chance with Super Eagles
The Super Eagles have a busy year ahead of them and would need the very best legs available to help them achieve big especially at the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, to be staged in Egypt.
In this light, Maccabi Tel Aviv daring attacker, Chikeluba Ofoedu, has called on Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, to give him a chance to prove himself in the national team.
Since taking his game to Europe after becoming the revelation of the 2011/2012 Nigeria league season, Ofoedu has continued to impress in front of goal.
At 19 years, he joined Rangers Int’l from UNTH Healers FC and scored 12 goals to emerge the club’s top scorer.
Ofoedu then moved to Turkey to join division one side Trabzon later in 2012. He went on to play for other first division sides, Karşıyaka, Samsunspor and Eskişehirspor till July 2017; scoring double figures for each before the big move to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“I enjoyed my time in Turkey as I was loved by fans of all the teams I played for,” he said.
“I needed a new challenge and so I did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity to join Maccabi.”
The bullish attacker scored his seventh goal for the runaway Ligat HaAl (The Super League) leaders, Maccabi Tel Aviv, when they drew 1-1 away to Hapoel Tel Aviv in the anticipated derby.
“My focus now is to play for the Super Eagles as I feel I am ripe for it and my teammates have been asking me why I am not in my country’s national team,” the 26-year-old said.
“I know how difficult it is to break into the Super Eagles due to the numerous established and emerging talents at the disposal of the manager, but I think I can bring something to the team’s attack,” Chico as he is fondly called said.
Nigeria will play Seychelles in a dead rubber last AFCON qualifier in March and four days later host Egypt in an international friendly.
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