The world is a global village and it has many citizens. It’s so wide that the blood that runs in the veins of a black man may find perfect connection in the tender vessels of a white woman.
Eduvie Ikoba (23) is a citizen of the world. Born to Nigerian parents in Iowa, United States of America. Iowa is a state in the Midwestern United States, bordered by the Mississippi River to the east and the Missouri River and Big Sioux River to the west
Football has taken him on a little European tour, and along it, he met the beauty that gave his life a clearer meaning.
Astonishingly, it was like vision made a course from the U.S down to Europe to live its reality and Eduvie remembers every bit of it.
“Yeah. For sure. It was helpful, ” he said about his girlfriend’s impact.
Both athletes in the US, with the girl, Hungarian, electing to travel back home to play basketball, Eduvie never imagined the massive impact she would play on his career.
“It was really crazy when I think about it because I met her in the U.S, we were at the university together. She plays basketball and she’s a couple of years older than me. So when she finished at the university, she went back home to Hungary to play basketball there. Somehow, like I would visit her maybe when I would visit in the winter break I would train with their local team. So there was one team that she was playing with and I played with their men’s soccer team. I think they’re called “DVTK” I don’t know if you have heard of that.”
Oma Akatugba: Yeah. “DVTK.”
Eduvie: So I trained with them a few times and so some of the people from the club knew me through that. When it was time for me, when I graduated, actually, I had like a trial. I was selected by “FC Dallas” in the U.S. But I had some hamstring injury during the preseason so they couldn’t sign me. So after I graduated with my degree, I went to Hungary.
I actually was supposed to have a trial in Croatia and then a trial in Hungary. I got sick before the Croatian trial so Hungary was the last option left for me. It was the club that my girlfriend was at that helped me because the president of their club was a family friend of my girlfriend. So he just said yeah well I know this team is coming into the first division, they may be interested in signing so maybe you can just go to this trial and see what happens. Then I went in. I played well so I was lucky that they signed me. But it was really a coincidence that it worked out well for me because my girlfriend was in the same country and also you know, the first starting place. It’s not too bad, the Hungarian league so I was happy with that.
Oma Akatugba: Fantastic. You’ve said the story already.
Oma Akatugba: So we’re just going to go into the other part and then come back a bit to that. So, how did you meet her?
Eduvie: It was weird because she’s two years older than me. My sophomore year of university was her senior year. And in the end of the semester, I randomly met her through one friend and so we spent a lot of time talking. We’re both Christians, I’m Christian as well so we were able to talk on a different level than I had with a lot of people. I think it helped me and I appreciated that. We’re both athletes as well, we had a lot of things in common, spent a lot of time together and we decided we’d just be together which was kind of hard because it was long distance. So she graduated and went back, I was still at the university for two years.
Oma Akatugba: So you guys were just talking online.
Eduvie: Yeah. We knew each other before for a while but maybe like the winter, or the spring, or the summer, or the autumn, we can visit for a few months and one would spend time with the other somehow but it was kind of weird because it was not all the time that we were together. It was interesting for sure.
Oma Akatugba: So, at what point did you decide to go join her in Hungary?
Eduvie: Like I said, I didn’t really know what to expect especially in my senior year. There was a lot of interest from MLS, like the American soccer league but the problem was that the summer, the first game into my senior year of the university, I tore my hamstring so I missed maybe a month of training or six weeks of games and training and then I came back and the first game back, within the first fifteen minutes, I tore the other hamstring. I totalled five games in the season but I only played maybe the last four or three games and I was lucky because I did well in those three games and it was enough for them to invite me into “MLS combined” I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s for the top college players, so they invited me. It was funny because I went to Hungary before the combined began to be with my girlfriend again and also to train with this local team.
As I went there, I was training for a few weeks finally again, getting my confidence and my fitness back and then I tore the same hamstring the third time all in a matter of maybe three of four months just back to back to back. I still tried, I had managed at the combined but I was injured and I was very out of shape because I wasn’t able to train regularly. I still was lucky because I was selected by a team, “FC Dallas”. I wanted a preseason, they liked me but after the first week of the preseason, I was feeling the pain from my hamstring still and then I told them I don’t think I can train right now so after the second week they just said we understand that it’s a complicated situation for you, we know you have a lot of talent. If you want to come back and train in the summer let us know so we can help you find another team.
For me, I said okay, I understand, I have one more semester at school left anyways so maybe it’s better I finish and then just focus on options in Europe. So, at that point, I said I’d just leave it all to God and then see what happens. I finished, I graduated and I was talking to some agents and they proposed different countries to me. The two that were interesting were Croatia, there was a first division team in Croatia that was going to get me a trial like I said and I was thinking that this time, let’s just get back my fitness, heal everything and do my best to be successful in this trial. So I really thought maybe it’s not going to be Hungary actually, maybe it’s going to be Croatia where I’ll go first. But it’s still not too far from my girlfriend. It’s maybe just about three hours drive and it would have still been lucky for me. But as I told you, I got sick again so I missed that trial.
The only option I had was either to go to Hungary or maybe do a trial for “Austrian” second division. So I said let’s just focus on Hungary, I want to play in the first division. Luckily, I did well. I know that I wasn’t in my best shape because I was still recovering from all the injuries but I did well enough to get them to sign me. I was just happy at the time to start my professional career with one team, it’s also in the same country that my girlfriend lives so it was for me felt that this is perfect, everything worked out in a way that was easy and comfortable for me because a lot of players struggle when they come to Europe especially without having friends and family around and then I had Meshach as well. Things worked out for the best in my life and I was so thankful for that.
Oma Akatugba: So tell me about you. Were you born in America or in Nigeria?
Eduvie: I was born in America. It’s actually interesting that I was born in the U.S and I’ve lived there my whole life. But both my parents are from Delta state. I’m Urhobo. It was kind of interesting because my dad came to the U.S for University as well and then me and my whole family we’re born in the U.S but it hasn’t always been easy because I haven’t really had the chance to go back home since growing up. I had to go like my whole family, we wanted to go together but since I have a large family, I have three brothers and three sisters, it was not possible for us to all go at the same time. I told myself let’s just get through high school and then get through University and then when I have the chance to go. In fact, I would have gone home this summer but because of COVID, it finished my chance. But I’m hoping maybe this winter or maybe next summer the opportunity comes because most of my family is still in Nigeria so it would be nice to go home to know where I’m from, to blend with the culture as well. It’s tough for a lot of Nigerian-Americans because we know that we’re not American completely, we know that we’re from somewhere else but we haven’t always had the chance to include ourselves into the culture. For me, my goal would be to do as much as possible to understand where I come from and who I am and it would help a lot.
Another thing that was difficult is that I didn’t learn Urhobo because my parents didn’t teach me. It’s funny because sometimes I ask them hey why didn’t you guys didn’t teach us because we could have known some extra languages. But I know at the end of the day, it would be okay regardless. I’m trying to learn some step by step but it’s kind of difficult too so we’ll see where life takes it all.
Oma Akatugba: Your parents are in Nigeria?
Eduvie: They were born in Nigeria but we all live in the Unites States now.
Oma Akatugba: But, of course, you are very much in touch with home in terms of entertainment. I’m sure you listen to all the Davidos and Wizkids.
Eduvie: Yeah. It’s true. Yeah. A lot of stuff I follow. I try to follow what’s going on with news, with the culture, with everything, music so yeah. The thing left for me is to go home to actually see the place, to speak with the people I haven’t spoken with before. Once I do that, I think it will help me a lot.
Oma Akatugba: Do you watch the Super Eagles?
Eduvie: Of course, yeah. I grew up watching the Super Eagles actually. It’s funny because, you know I love the US too, the US is great too of course. But the most interesting memories, the best memories I have watching soccer was the Nigerian National Team for sure. My dad actually had some tapes of the Nigerian 1994 Super Eagles team. It’s funny because those were the games I watched. I watched JJ Okocha. You know it was the golden generation and those were the people that gave me excitement, they made me wanna play. For sure, I’m in touch now. Every time there’s a friendly or camping, I make sure to follow what’s happening. And now it’s even more interesting because I’m in Europe so I can see how the players are doing in Europe and then I see how they’re performing, the National Team as well. So, it’s good, for sure.
Oma Akatugba: You have an American passport and you’re a Nigerian. If you get the chance, what country would you like to play for?
Eduvie: It’s a really tough question for me, honestly. I don’t think I even have the answer yet so I’ll probably just have to wait and see what happens because I’ve thought about it a lot of times but I don’t think in my heart that there’s any clear answer yet. But, for sure, if I could play for either, I’ll be extremely thankful because it’s always been a dream to play the international level too. So my saying is that when the time comes, I’ll have to make that decision so for now I haven’t thought of it too much. I have to get to the International level before I can make those decisions. But maybe it will come soon, who knows? Then I’ll have to sit down and really think.
Of course, yeah, the top team which, you know, the top team is good as well. The players in the national team now, they’re good. If you’re in the Super Eagles team, you have to be one of the best in the world. Especially because if you look at what the young generation of strikers are doing and what the old generations have done, I watch them all the time and I see they’re scoring goals, they’be good, everyone is doing well. So I don’t think it’s a national team where you can just come and maybe you’ll bring money and would just be guaranteed to play.
Oma Akatugba: I’m sure it’s harder to get into that team than the American national team.
Eduvie: I think for sure, it is.
Oma Akatugba: I mean this is not basketball.
Eduvie: Exactly, yeah. It’s true. So, it’s a dream for the future. For now, I won’t even worry about those things and if they come then I’ll just deal with them.
I think the focus is to build my club career to a good level and other things will follow. I think about those things all the time. The thing that also gives me peace when I look at it all is that the same way that someone can have a great start to his career and then decline so fast while some can start late and become very successful. Didier Drogba is an example.
You know, you never know how life will go. Maybe one day, you’re at some low level and the next, you’re playing in some World Cup or something. So I try not to think about these things too much. I just do my best and wherever I go will be okay for me.
Oma Akatugba: Where did you grow up in America and how was growing up like for you in the United States.
Eduvie: I grew up in Ohio. It’s pretty far actually. They don’t have many big cities. I grew up there. It was okay. It was just I think a normal childhood. It was a very peaceful neighbourhood I grew up in. I played soccer with my family a lot of the time. There were some difficulties too because maybe it’s 99 per cent white American people in this state so you don’t see a lot of people like yourself. I didn’t see a lot of people like myself there. You know, Nigerian-Americans that I can share my culture with. It helped me because I became really close to my family members. We all formed a strong bond which I think has been like that since childhood.
Oma Akatugba: How’s it going at Trencin?
Eduvie: To be honest, it’s a little bit complicated because I came this summer and maybe there are some things that surprised me. At this level of the league, there’s more intensity, there’s more energy, the players are healthier and hungrier so you have to really work in this league which is a lot different than Hungary in my opinion. And also another thing is the beginning of my second year in Europe, there are some times I have to understand the way the cultures are working and what they want because sometimes I’m playing with my own ability but with African players in general, I think it’s a different style.
Oma Akatugba: I think they expect much physical application from an African player but they forget that not all blacks are groomed to be physically strong.
Eduvie: Of course.
Oma Akatugba: They expect same thing from all African players.
Eduvie: You know, for me, it’s no problem because at the end of the day, I know I can handle any level. But maybe there are some times where I didn’t quite understand what was expected of me. So adjusting to the different demands of European football is something I have to work on. But I’m confident that very soon, it will begin to show in my personal performances and also the team as well because in general, I think the team is troubled. We haven’t really gelled the way we’re supposed to. But I’m hoping things get better I notice every once-in-a-while that maybe the coaches are trying to understand the way we play more and they’re able to come up with a team that’s going to come out with the right results. I don’t think too much about it but when I go on the field, I have to be aware of whet they at expecting but I also have to play freely, otherwise I won’t be able to perform the best so that has been my challenge.
Eduvie’s challenge is surmountable with one of his biggest push staying solidly by his side while his Nigerian teammates and family also show support. It’s a long journey ahead but the young Nigerian-American has all it takes to go to many more places, and rightly, he believes he can.