Former under-17 national team, Golden Eaglets’ invitee, Philip Chidi Onyemah (Phenomenon) has called it with with soccer, as he finally took the bold decision to hang his boots early this month.
Onyemah had been toying with the idea of retiring for almost four years, following the exit of childhood friends like Obafemi Akinwunmi Martins, Stephen Ayodele Makinwa and Ifeanyi Emeghara, but the decision that he kept on hold all this while had to come up eventually.
Born 20 February 1984 in the former Maroko area of Lagos, the lad with a Portuguese wife, Katia, is popular only with his middle name (Chidi) in Portugal, where he last played for lower division side, Ninense.
The native of Delta State moved to Portugal in 1998, on the cards of former Super Eagles winger, Emmanuel Amuneke, who the mentor of Soccer Warriors FC, a youth club in Orile-Iganmu, Lagos, where Onyemah was captain of the side.
Amuneke’s idea was to see the lad start out with FC Porto, but some transfer issues in the Nigerian FA meant Onyemah’s career was put on hold for a year, and he ended up getting only a peanuts’ deal with lowly amateur club, Associação Desportiva Fornos de Algodres soon.
Nonetheless, he still managed to trace his way back to Porto in 2002, but he could only seal a youth team contract, which excluded him from action with the main squad, then handled by Jose Mourinho.
In 2003, Onyemah joined Famalicão in the fourth division, whis his form across two seasons was impressive enough to earn him a move to modest Primeira Liga outfit, Rio Ave, where he played 33 games in his first year and netted four goals, but the Vila do Conde side were relegated.
Amazingly, Onyemah, who could have been in the 2001 set of Eaglets that toiled at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad & Tobago, had he not made the trip to Portugal on Amuneke’s cards, scored another four goals in the 2007/08 season to help Rio Ave return to the top-flight division.
In November 2008 he was on trial with Romania’s FC Timişoara, on the invitation of Emeghara, who was then in the Super Eagles, but nothing came out of that opening, and he promptly returned to Portugal.
Onyemah appeared regularly for Rio Ave in the following two seasons, in which he got a total of 28 starts and three goals combined, then moved to Olympiakos Nicosia of Cyprus in July 2010, but spent just two years.
“Despite everything that has happened to my football career, I give all thanks to God and I pray that life after football with be better off for me.
“I am grateful to everything that was part of my playing career, who contributed in one way or the other no matter how big or small. I will try not to disappoint them even as I finally stop playing officially from this month,” Onyemah posited with an air of enthusiasm.