MARGAO: Ace Nigerian forward Bartholomew Ogbeche, who recently surpassed Indian captain Sunil Chhetri to become the highest scorer in the ISL, says he declined the initial offer to join the league.
Veteran striker Chhetri recently became the first player to cross the 50-goal mark in the Indian Super League with a fine performance against Hyderabad FC.
Both Chhetri and Hyderabad’s Ogbeche were on 49 goals each, when the India captain won the race to reach the half-century milestone.
The four season-old Ogbeche, however, overtook the Bengaluru skipper with a brace during Hyderabad’s 3-2 victory over the weekend. While the Nigerian striker took his league tally to 51 goals, his 16 goals in as many games this season puts him in a position to win the Golden Boot award.
Ogebeche reached the 50-goal mark in just 73 games, 38 lesser than Chhetri.
Ogbeche, speaking on ISL’s weekly podcast Lets Football Live, revealed he almost declined the opportunity to join the ISL.
“At first I declined to be completely honest. I said no, I was not going to go there,” Ogbeche said.
The Nigerian striker was reassured by friend and former ATK striker Kalu Uche to take up the offer from NorthEast United FC in 2018.
“However, I had a friend who played in ISL. I spoke to him and did my due diligence. I heard a lot of fantastic things about ISL and gave it a second thought.
“Offers came back a second time, I said I would think about it. When they came for the third time, I took it more seriously,” Ogbeche said.
Into his fourth ISL season, Ogbeche has represented four different clubs and racked up 49 goals from 71 appearances. He has scored 12 for NorthEast United in his first season and followed it up with 15 at Kerala Blasters in 2019-20.
Last season, Ogbeche joined Mumbai City, for whom he scored eight goals and ended up winning the enviable double — the ISL trophy and the League shield. Currently, he has scored 14 goals for Hyderabad, topping this season’s goal-scoring charts.
Ogbeche in hindsight felt assured he made the right move to join ISL against the wishes of his close ones.
“Friends and family suggested not to move to India at the time. But I listened to my heart and was convinced that I was making the right choice for my career. It turned out to be a shrewd decision and I am really thankful.”
The 37-year-old credited his formative years at the Paris Saint Germain academy for his longevity.
“I feel I am doing the best job in the world. There are millions in the world who would love to do what I am doing.”
“I was very lucky to have played with some of the best players to have ever played the game at the very start of my career. Ronaldinho, Jay-Jay Okocha, and Nicolas Anelka took me under their wings like a little brother, and that shaped me both as a footballer and a person.” —PTI