The story below was published in our newspaper about this time in 2013. And, based on the rising profile of Peter Ijeh, an ex-international and a seasoned coach, we represent his story in our Down Memory Lane Column today, enjoy it. –
Peter Ijeh is an ambitious young man. An embodiment of talents, he has worked hard to make a difference as a notable football star.
The 36 years old forward uses his brain more than his legs when he comes face-to-face with top goalkeepers, and this has earned him many goals and success as a player. Starting a professional career at top Nigerian teams; Nitel FC and Julius Berger FC both of Lagos “was all the chance I needed to showcase my talent, and I’m glad the opportunity came and I used it well.” Ijeh fought his way to Europre, where his skills stunned top club sides in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
Whoever watches Ijeh perform on the field for the first time would always crave for more of his actions, as the attacker commands respect with his deft touches and agility on the ball.
Family & Education
The former Nigerian international hails from a humble background from Delta state in Nigeria. He was born on 28 March, 1977 to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph & Mary Ijeh.
He attended primary & secondary education at Osborne in Ikoyi, Victoria Island in Lagos state, Nigeria. From August 2003 to 2008, the player attended the Gothenburg University, where he graduated as a BSC holder in Sociology.
While Ijeh was combining education with his soccer career, he had this dream of becoming a trainer jealously in his heart. And, no wonder the dream became a reality when the prolific striker was certified a Football Trainer after earning the Uefa A & B Coaching Licenses by the Swedish Football Federation /Gothenburg University.
He also studied for an advance program, which included courses in Sports, Science, Leadership and Sports Didactic. Only recently, Ijeh attended the Svenska Fotbollförbundet / Uefa Coaching Convention between September 2012 and May 2013.
Peter Ijeh 6Growing Up
“Sometimes when you browse through old photo albums or videos, you feel a lump in your throat. Where did those wonder years go? Growing up may not seem so exciting when you are actually in the process. But when you look back, even the biggest crisis seems like a fond memory”, he reasoned.
Ijeh started life as a normal child and as he looks back to recall the days, the player in an emotion laden interview with Eye On The Sports said: “That’s great…”, recalling some sweet memories of the most encouraging, brave and genuine foundation he had built to become a full grown sports personality.
“…My growing was simple and I will say in a short statement; that it was tough and also exciting…And I started my sports career from the grassroots, and followed it into professional level, and of course, where I am today”.
His All Round Talents
Unknown to many football followers, this astute football coach did not get the art of goal scoring by chance. The secret behind his goal scoring prowess was revealed in this breathtaking chat; “Getting my first team shirt as a player is a memory to remember and a path of self development.
“The funniest part is that I did not start my football career as a striker. I was a goalkeeper during my early days, a very good one. Apart from goalkeeping, I also played as a defender for my teams in the grassroots.
“I was the captain of our team during school competitions and I was even drafted to the midfield sometimes in some tournaments. (Digression)
“At this juncture, I must say a big thanks to someone who is also dear to my heart. A woman of timber and calibre, a woman I respect. I miss you so much and want to see you someday and say “Thank you”. Thank you for noticing my talent and enrolling me in a team and putting me on a payroll in the grassroots level. The last time I saw you, was at the Lagos International terminal arrival hall. But before I could clear my baggage and complete other formalities, you were gone. I’m talking about a patron, and a club owner; Princess Bola Jegede”.
“So, before joining Nitel Football Club, I was playing as a holding midfielder, and sometimes I was tasked to play an offensive role in my teams”.
Ijeh’s ability on the pitch began to wax stronger when he moved to Julius Berger Football Club. “I utilised every opportunity I had by combining the midfield quality and striking proficient abilities to give my best on the pitch. Then, I joined Julius Berger, which was the next step towards greatness in my career”.
Ijeh’s move to Berger was initiated by former team manager in the late 90s and former Chairman of the club, the late Chief Idama and erstwhile Manager of the team; Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi. Both officials acknowledged my importance and qualities for the team.
“At Berger, I started gradually as an offensive midfielder and just playing and enjoying my game until that fateful day, when the team lacked strikers with few days to a crucial match. Then I was drafted to play as a point man for Berger by former Coach, Philip Boama.
“That was the breakthrough, as I utilized the opportunity to make a statement as a potent attacker that Berger needed. I however explored the chance to launch my career abroad”, Ijeh recalled with nostalgia.
Peter Ijeh 5Professional Career
Ijeh’s professional career actually began in Nitel FC Lagos from 1996-1999. At Nitel, the ever smiling Ijeh did not waste his first professional opportunity in the team that competed in the elite division in Nigeria. In 1998/99 season, he scored 14 goals that brought Nitel FC to the Nigeria Premier League. Playing as an attacker cum mid-fielder, Ijeh also played a total of 26 games for Nitel scoring 17 goals in his last season, which ended in 1999. Being an instant hit in the apex league tournament in Nigeria, the goal poacher was prized away from Nitel FC by Julius Berger in the 1999/2000 season.
And, shortly after his move to the Adewale Bridge Boys’ camp in the 1999/2000 season, Ijeh justified his new pay by emerging the Highest Goal Scorer in the Premier League in Nigeria. He had 27 appearances for Berger and scored 15 goals.After three years of professional football in Nigeria, the nomadic striker had an offer to play abroad at Swedish club; Malmo FF in 2001, where he was top scorer in Allsvenskan in 2002 with 24 goals.
“That’s what I will always remember as an exceptional season, finishing off with our club’s qualification to feature in the lucrative UEFA League”.
In just three seasons, Ijeh had a total of 60 appearances and netted 38 goals. His performance attracted interest from La Liga trail blazers, Barcelona Football Club, and Olympique de Marseille, while the Swedish national team handlers tempted him to don the country’s colours.
When the teams were preparing for the 2004/2005 season in Sweden, an offer came for Ijeh from Malmo’s rivals; IFK Goteborg, but the development nearly turned sour for the Nigerian star. Ijeh, who demanded an upward review of his salary as a condition for renewing his contract at Malmo, received death threats from fans of the club.
It would be recalled that the threats to his life was carried out in two anonymous letters sent to him towards the expiration of his contract in October 2003. A copy of the letters was sent to his home, while the other was placed on the windscreen of his personal car.
Eye On The Sports recalled that his club’s fans allegedly wrote in their threat letter to Ijeh; ‘We love you and don’t want you to go, but we will kill you if you leave Malmo FF’.
However, Ijeh achieved his dream move to Goteborg in 2004/2005 season. He had a successful season with 36 appearances and 13 goals which helped the club to gain a place in the UEFA League.
The Nigerian continued with his thirst for top actions the following season, when he penned a new deal at FC Copenhagen in Denmark in 2005/2006 football year. His club won the league title that season with a Champions League spot. But Ijeh only managed to score four times for Copenhagen out of 16 appearances.
In 2006, Ijeh dumped Goteborg’s jersey again, packed his boots and left Denmark for Norway, where he signed for Viking FK Stavanger. His scoring form returned as Ijeh became an instant success in his first season, scoring 11 goals in 15 games and saved the team from an imminent relegation. He continued his success story in Norway with Viking, scoring a total of 39 goals in 78 games in the following two seasons.
The player capped his sojourn in Norway, winning the UEFA League ticket for Viking before his contract expired in 2009.
After spending close to seven seasons out of Sweden, it was another home-coming for Ijeh, who signed for Syrianska FC of Sweden for the 2010/2011 football year. He scored two goals in the final game that took Syrianska to Allsvenskan ( Premier League) for the first time ever in the history of the team.
Ijeh was on target 17 times in the season and also scored Syrianska´s first Allsvenskan goal to increase his goal haul to 22 in a total of 47 appearances in two seasons.
He brought his glowing career to a fantastic end in 2012, when he left Syrianska for Allsvenskan rivals, GAIS FC.
The celebrated forward was handed the number 9 jersey, but managed to score twice in his 18 appearances for GAIS. He is the only Nigerian player to emerge as highest goal scorer in Sweden since 2002 with 24 goals in 23 appearances, and Ijeh still maintains the record till today.
With several other awards such as Highest Goal Scorer in the Nigeria Premier League, NPL, Most Valuable Player, MVP in the 2003 Champions League qualification with FC Copenhagen, and four other MVP awards in the UEFA qualification series with Malmo FF, IFK Goteborg and Viking, Ijeh has undoubtedly cemented his successful career with a resounding legacy, which will remain evergreen in soccer history.
Peter Ijeh 4Objectives
Of all these achievements, Ijeh is not done with the round leather game. The highly motivated trainer said he wants to give back to the society which made him, having acquired enough experience to rise to the summit of his career as a coach.
“I have trained myself not just as a professional footballer, but as a UEFA licensed coach. I handle all aspects of sports development and implementation of player/employee training programs. I’m composed with great enthusiasm to help in the development of the others to reach their maximum potential”, the former Berger hit man told Eye On The Sports.
“I am known today because Nigeria offered me the platform to exhibit my talents, and I must thank the football loving Nigerians for supporting me. I appreciate the media, my family, my loyal fans and top administrators such as; Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi, Coach Amodu Shuaibu and numerous others that I can’t mention, especially the coaches I have learnt from. I’m a new breed with a new mission and I must confess, I miss our country a lot. Thanks to you all my admirers”.
When Ijeh was asked how much he missed his friends, families and the scary night life during his days at Nitel Football Club, where he had to walk through the busy Oshodi road from Kappa, his former club’s training ground and camp in Lagos, he burst into laughter and chorused; “Of course, there is no place like home… I can recollect those days, going back and forth between Oshodi, Kappa and other places. What I went through those days actually built me up for what I represent today”.
That’s Ijeh in his usual calm and shy nature. He can conveniently take up a challenge in any football or sports organisation, national teams or other related fields of study in the world.
Moreover, Ijeh has joined the leagues of ex-internationals such as Stephen Keshi; Daniel Amokachi; Ike Shorunmu; Manu Garba; Emmanuel Amunike and Nduka Ugbade to mention just a few, who are doing well as national teams’ coaches.
His track record should interest many teams, especially in Nigeria, where the system still need literate and modern administrators to turn around the country’s sports for better.
Addendum: Peter Ijeh is one of the coaches who were recently interviewed for the Nigerian national team coaching job by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in Abuja.