The former Nigeria international spent a decade and a half playing for clubs in Belgium and France, but he insists with the potential he had, he should have starred for the biggest clubs in the world
Ex-Super Eagles star Godwin Okpara says he was so good at his prime he could have played for any of Real Madrid or Juventus, but both didn’t try to sign him because he was not a Brazilian.
Okpara burst to national consciousness after impressing alongside Victor Ikpeba and Benedict Akwuegbu in the Golden Eaglets side that made it to the quarterfinals of the 1989 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Scotland.
A move to Belgium followed for Okpara, where he was named the best African player in the country, a rare feat for a defender.
Strasbourg took Okpara to France, and after helping the Racers win the Coupe de la Ligue, PSG convinced the Nigerian defender to move to the capital in 1999.
But that was as high as it got for the former Beerschoft ace, as he had to return to Belgium two years later to play for Standard Liege where he saw out his last days in the game.
In a chat with a local radio station (via The Guardian), Okpara expresses that he is pleased with the career he forged for himself and that he could have done better if he was not a Nigerian.
“For me, I did all I could throughout my playing career in Belgium and France. First, I won the Ebony Award as Africa’s best player in the Belgian league.
“I left Belgium to Ligue 1 in France with Strasburg, where I spent nine seasons. In one of my games against Inter Milan, where I did well, if I were originally from Brazil, big clubs like Real Madrid, Juventus, etc. would have come for me.
“But none came for me because I wasn’t a Brazilian.
“What other performance will one put up again where I marked out Ronaldo de Lima? In that game, Ronaldo confessed to me that he had never had such a match like that before in his life. We exchanged jerseys, and he congratulated me. He told me to keep it up.
“This happened because I was always hungry for success each time I played against a big team.”
Okpara earned 18 caps for the Super Eagles before he retired from football in 2004.