“Alex Iwobi’s Dad is like my Brother” says Leo Moffi

-“Alex Iwobi’s Dad is like my Brother” says Leo Moffi –
Alex Iwobi scored twice, when Nigeria met Argentina in an international friendly match recently. Therefore, he must be thinking of what to do next, when Nigeria’s Super Eagles meet the Argentines again at a bigger stage, on June 26, 2018.

Yesterday’s final draw ceremony in Russia placed Nigeria in Group D of the World Cup along with Argentina, Croatia and Iceland. Nigeria would face Croatia on June 16, 2018 before squaring up against Iceland on June 22, 2018.

Leo Moffi and Alex Iwobi’s Parents at Uyo, just before Nigeria’s World Cup Qualifying Match against Zambia.

The outcome of that draw would likely overshadow every other discussion in the football world this weekend, including the big game in the English Premiership between Iwobi’s club Arsenal and Manchester United.

In this vein, I spoke exclusively with Leo Moffi, former Calabar Rovers as well as Rangers International of Enugu’s goalkeeper, on the outcome of that draw as it affects Nigeria. Leo Moffi is a close pal of Chuka Iwobi, Alex Iwobi’s Dad. He is currently a Permanent Secretary in the civil service of Cross River State. We started by chatting about his relationship with Alex Iwobi’s Dad and his footballing career.

Please read our conversation below:

I noticed that you constantly speak fondly about Alex Iwobi and his family. Why are you so attached to that family?

“My friendship with Chuka dates back to 1981 where we both met as teenage Law students in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. We gravitated towards each other principally because we shared common interests. Apart from studying the same course, we were both playing for the University football team and represented the University at the Nigerian University Games (NUGA).

Leo Moffi and Chuka Iwobi in their youthful years at the Lagos Bar Beach.

“In our final year in 1985, we both played in the National League for Vasco Da Gama Football Club of Enugu. As we became best of friends, I spent a lot of time in Chuka’s family house in Enugu. His parents and siblings accepted me as part of their family.

In those days, he also accompanied me to Ogoja during holidays and was equally accepted into my family as a son of the family. Truth be told, we are more like brothers such that when he left for the UK over twenty years ago, we have kept in touch.”

Some people consider Alex Iwobi as Austin Okocha’s replacement. Incidentally, Alex is Okocha’s nephew. What is your reaction to the reference to Alex as another Okocha?

“Alex is still a young player and developing. Fans owe him a duty not to draw comparisons with his uncle Jay Jay Okocha so we don’t put him under undue pressure. Let’s allow him develop without pressure.”

“Only time will tell how far he will go in wearing Okocha’s big shoes. Having said that, on the evidence of what we have seen so far, Alex has the potentials to be a really great player. We pray he fulfills those potentials.”

Hopefully, Alex Iwobi would be part of Nigeria’s squad at the World Cup. How do you rate Nigeria’s chance of progress at the competition, following the outcome of yesterday’s final draw?

“It is not a bad group in terms of Nigeria qualifying into the next round. Our chances are as good as that of the teams in the group. In my opinion, it is a fairly open group. Not even Argentina can afford to take things for granted.”

Recently, Nigeria defeated Argentina in a friendly international match. How would the outcome of that friendly match influence the next encounter between these countries at the World Cup?

“Perhaps the only part Nigeria’s recent win over Argentina will play is to beef up the confidence of the Nigerian team. However, the final result of the match against Argentina will be determined by what happens on the pitch on the day. Same applies to the final placement of the teams in the group. Qualifying from the group will call for organisation and tactical discipline of the teams. We also cannot rule out the element of luck.”

Leo Moffi and an Argentine fan, Lionel Messi’s look alike, at Brazil 2014.

Usually, football pundits speak of “group of death” and “weak group”. What group would you consider as ” group of death ” or “weak group” at the World Cup, following yesterday’s draw ceremony?

“There are no more weak teams in world football. None of the groups in this world cup can be classified as weak. As for a group of death, non really. However, on paper, the Portugal, Spain and Morocco group promises to be the most intriguing.”

“The pedigree and present quality of the Spanish and Portuguese teams coming up against a very organised Moroccan team is a mouthwatering proposition. Iran who are part of the group, though not a football powerhouse can hold their own on their day.”

Most lovers of football in Nigeria and Cross River State in particular, still nurse fond memories of your years in football. What have you been doing, since you retired from active football?

“Hmmm. I left Calabar Rovers in 1989 and quit football in 1992 while playing for Enugu Rangers. Since then I went back into Law practice and got engaged by the Cross River State government where I have served in different capacities. I have been, at various times, Legislative Counsel to the Cross River State House of Assembly, Director in the Department of Public Prosecutions, Administrator-General and Public Trustee of Cross River State.”

“I am currently Permanent Secretary in the Department of Budget Monitoring and Evaluation. I have also been doing a few things football wise in which connection I am Chairman of Youths Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON) Cross River State Chapter.”

What can you say about the current state of your former teams such as Black Cats of Ogoja, Calabar Rovers and Enugu Rangers?

“Let me answer this question in the order in which you placed the teams. Black Cats have not been able to get to the level our set took the team. The circumstances today are different. In our time, we had the best collection of players Ogoja has ever produced at a given time. A lot of the players like Godwin Odey (our captain), Emma Ntaji, Charles Ayim, Mike Owan, Gabriel Ushie, Tony Odey etc played together in the State Academicals team. This helped with team cohesion and we attained the modest heights we reached.”

Leo Moffi in action as goalkeeper during his hey days in soccer.

“Regarding Calabar Rovers, poor management and the fact that player’s welfare has been taken for granted has among other reasons accounted for the poor showing of the team. The team needs a surgical operation to be able to get back to the glory days.”

“As for Enugu Rangers, remember the team won the league in the 2016 season but put up a dismal performance in the continent and the 2017 league. There has been a reorganisation in the team management with former player (my teammate) and General Manager, Davidson Owumi being brought back to manage the team.”

“With what Owumi achieved as General Manager the first time he held that position, there is hope that the team will do well. Besides the new coach, Ogunbote is a seasoned coach. It is my belief the team will do well in the present dispensation.”

Just like your friend Iwobi whose son Alex is doing well in soccer, one of your sons has taken after you and is currently playing in Europe. What can you say about him?

“I really don’t discuss my family members on public fora. I allow them to do that themselves. I hope you understand my position.”

  • Cornelius Ellah
    Twitter: @lin_cornellah
    Facebook: Cornelius Ellah

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