Do you remember him? His name is Femi Opabunmi, a former Nigerian Super Eagles player, who last played for Shooting Stars FC. He played for a few clubs, including Shooting Stars FC, Grasshoppers Zürich (Switzerland) and Chamois Niortais in France. He studied at Methodist High School Ibadan and played for the Methodist High School Ibadan Old Boys. Serious eyes problems stopped his career since 2006. I remember him pretty well, I met him once after his return from the U-17 World Cup, he was presumed to be under the age of 17, however the circumstances surrounding our meeting is not for public consumption. Hey! Don’t ask me.
Opabunmi scored a goal to help Nigeria win the African U-17 Championships in 2001. With Collins Osunwa out with injury he became Nigeria's key player at 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship where he scored a hat-trick against Australia and won him the Silver Shoe as second highest goalscorer and also the Bronze Ball as third best player in the tournament, helping Nigeria to reach the final where they lost to France. He attracted attention from clubs such as Manchester United, Lyon and Celta Vigo.
He played for Nigeria and made his debut in 2002 against Kenya scoring the second goal in a 3-0 win. He was a participant at the 2002 FIFA World Cup playing against England in the last group stage match becoming the 3rd youngest player to ever play in the World Cup finals after Norman Whiteside and Samuel Eto'o. Thereafter, he has not been called again for the national team.
He became a national hero few months later because of his dazzling runs on the flanks for the Golden Eaglets even though Nigeria lost 0-3 to France in the finals of the event. Fans back home will remember him for the hat-trick against Australia. He won the Silver Shoe as the second highest goal scorer and the bronze ball as the tournaments’ third best player.
A star was born. Yes, it was no fallacy as he was promoted to the senior national team, the Super Eagles a few months down the road.
From Asia, Opabunmi didn’t return to the ancient city of Ibadan, as he finalised his move which started at the FIFA Under -17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago to Swiss top division side, Grasshoppers. He left for Isreal after three seasons in Switzerland. Next stop was Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel, where he spent a season and left for French second division side, Niort.
Opabunmi’s grace to grass story began after two seasons in Niort, precisely one morning in 2006 in training when he discovered that his vision was blurred.
In December 2006, he was training one day when, suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his eyes and he could not see the ball again. His vision became blurred and he decided to see an optician where he was told that in a few days, he could become blind if he did not have surgery. He went for it and the surgeon said it was a success.
According to Opabunmi, “the bill was so much that I was forced to contact a few of my friends. My team mates in the Super Eagles like Osaze Odemwingie and Seyi Olofinjana responded by sending some money to me. Others did not even reply my mails or called to know how I was feeling”. He was expecting to see again but there was no improvement. He was later informed that the problem was a complex case.
Opabunmi later returned home to seek spiritual help to his challenge upon his mother’s advice as he was left with no other choice. When he came back to Nigeria, he visited churches, mosques, alfas, native herbal homes and many more. At the end of the day, he was left flat broke.
Opabunmi is now left with one eye working at 60% and the other completely blind, Opabunmi says he is confident of seeing with both eyes again as he waits for the mercy of God for divine healing.
Did he receive any help from his former club, 3SC?
He insists that there’s too much politics in his former club and that explains why he has stayed away. Although he feels he doesn’t need to go to them before help should come his way. “I played for 3SC before leaving Nigeria. They know my condition and how bad it is. There’s no football person in Ibadan who is not aware of my plight”. The Ex-Footballer appreciated Mr. Dapo Lam-Adesina, Lateef Akeem, Peter Osaze Odemwingie. He also reached out to Vincent Enyeama who but he never replied his calls and mails after he told him he needed his financial assistance.
It is indeed a pitiable story, has I do remember this man, with sawg, and I pray that he receives his sight quickly. Femi Opabunmi, do not give up bro, whether you are my elder brother or younger brother, God’s specialty are cases like yours.