Victor Ikpeba, former Super Eagles forward and 1997 African Footballer of The Year in a recent interview talks about his childhood, his late wife, and his plans for a future partner.
How did you start playing football?
I was born in Benin City, though my father is an Isoko man in present day Delta State. I grew up with my dad’s mother, who is from Benin City, in Sapele. I was not up to two years when I started staying with her.
My mother is actually Yoruba, but not many people know this. I am the first of three boys.
I lost my dad when I was very young, so whenever I was on holidays, I visited my uncle, an Air Force officer, in Benin City, meaning my childhood was spent in Benin and Sapele. Between age four and five, I was already playing rubber balls in the neigbourhood with my friends. Out there then, you had over 20 people staying in one compound. Sport was in me and I am sure I took after my dad because I saw a lot of his pictures as a footballer.
I come from a military background, though I wouldn’t say I am from a rich family. But my early childhood was sports and education; I was involved in school sports.
I attended Crowder Primary School and Okpe Grammar School in Sapele before I came to stay with my uncle in Lagos and then got admission into Yaba College of Technology. Actually, it was not easy. I used the opportunity to play for Eko Holiday Inn, then they were in the LAFA League and Golden Eaglets before moving ahead.
It was difficult for my uncle to accept me playing football because he was afraid if I got injured, it will be all over; he felt that I might not be 100 per cent fit in doing whatever I wanted to do in life.
There was really no money in football then. Our heroes who played the game in the 70s and 80s for Nigeria didn’t make money. They only had the passion for the game. I think that passion for the game drove me on.
On retirement from football, you went into football punditry. How have you been coping in your new field?
Well, I must give thanks to people like Brila FM CEO, Larry Izamoje and SuperSport Nigeria General Manager, Felix Awogu. They were really inspiring.
I wrote a column for FourFourTwo magazine and then I analysed the 2010 World Cup on Brila FM and from there, it’s been an interesting journey. Since I started analysing, the passion has been growing by the day. Every ex-footballer cannot be a coach.
Can you tell us about your family and how you have been coping without a woman in your life?
I still feel the death of my wife. She died of breast cancer in 2000. I tried my best to save her but I couldn’t. If money could buy health, she would be with me here.
Now I have a friend, a Congolese-French lady, who has two daughters for me. She shuttles between France and Pointe Noir and she runs a spa. So I have five girls; three from my late wife. Two of them are in Nigeria, in boarding school.
My girlfriend has been helpful in taking care of all my kids. Coping without a woman has not been easy but you are going to see something very soon.
So who is the lucky bride and where is she from?
I will keep that to myself.