Former Nigerian footballer-turned-priest Chibuzor Nwakanma, one of Calcutta Maidan’s favourites in the 1980s and 90s, passed away on Friday. He was 55.
The diminutive forward who played for East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, died after a suspected cardiac arrest at his residence in Aba, Nigeria, according to former teammate, Emeka Ezeugo.
“He finished his usual morning walk, came back, slumped and died,” Emeka wrote in a Facebook post. Emeka had formed a partnership with Chibuzor during their days at DAV College in Chandigarh before they moved to Calcutta.
Having come to study in Chandigarh’s DAV College, along with Emeka and Christopher Kem, the Nigerian trio excelled during the 1985 All-India Inter-University Championship for Punjab University.
Chibuzor was picked by East Bengal the following year and then moved to Mohammedan Sporting (1987 to 1991). He wore the Mohun Bagan shirt from 1993-95. He scored more than 160 goals.
“I had just started and Chibuzor’s guidance helped me,” former India defender Anit Ghosh, who played with the Nigerian for Churchill Brothers of Goa in 1997-98, said. That season, during a National Football League match against FC Kochin, Ghosh had scored two own goals in a 3-2 loss. “I was devastated and it was Chibuzor who had given me the confidence to carry on,” he remembered.
Chibuzor also played in an exhibition match for IFA XI against the star-studded Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, coached by the legendary Bobby Robson, in 1991.
A deeply religious man, the Nigerian chose to become a pastor after retirement.