…Nollywood star, John Okafor, popularly known as Mr Ibu reveals to Complete Sports SAB OSUJI and IZUCHUKWU OKOSI why he quit boxing, his karate, betting life and support for Chelsea FC. Mr Ibu also says Chelsea blood run in his family hence his wife named his daughter after the Stamford Bridge outfit. Enjoy excerpts…
You are an actor, yet you seem to have so much passion for sports, football in particular,
It may interest you to know that I was once a karateker. I held black belt. But then I have so much passion for football just like you pointed out.
So much so that you could stake as much as N100, 000.00 for a match you don’t have control of?
Sure, this is not the first time. I’ve been betting real good money and never lost in any of such bets. I never lost in any of such bets especially if I bet on (Jose) Mourinho and Chelsea. I was always sure I won’t fail and I never failed.
Why mainly on Mourinho and Chelsea? Are they your lucky numbers?
As far as football is concerned, yes.
It’s because I have so much confidence and trust on him. He’s a top class coach, a good manager and he always delivers.
So how did this trust (you have on him) come about?
Look, in football, I was a technical person too. I coached the Nollywood Guild of Editors for four years. So I know when someone is saying something that’s real in terms of football. I will see the import of what you’re talking about, I’ll also see the ambit and then weigh them before I decide on what next to do.
Wait a minute, doesn’t your wife get angry when you just give out N100,000.00 in a bet just like that? What if you lose?
How would she know? If I lose, it goes, that’s gambling.
And she will just take it like that?
My wife, she won’t know, I won’t let her know otherwise it will put me into trouble.
But what if she gets to know?
If she hears, certainly she will ask me and I will deny it.
Why would you deny?
But why won’t I deny? I must deny in order for peace to reign in my family.
Now Chelsea have won the EPL, did you see it coming the way it came?
It was not a surprise to me. But sometimes, my problem with Chelsea is that they get to lose to the ‘smaller’ teams. But of course, no team that has pedigree gets to beat Chelsea, no, not possible, unless they are not prepared. I’m telling you this categorically.
Why are you so confident about this?
It’s a culture, it has been like that as far as Mourinho is concerened. You must really suffer before you beat him. Check his records in all the clubs he’s coached in Portugal, Italy, Spain and now back in England.
Let me ask you again, why this special passion for sports despite being an artist?
Football is part of me, I must confess this to you. I’m natural when it comes to soccer. It’s like when one is playing draft. Football makes me happy and I enjoy it so much.
And does this also cut across to your wife?
Yes, my wife is also passionate about football particularly Chelsea. She knows all Chelsea
players, knows where each of them plays and can name all the players off hand. At a point, she knows when each player makes a good or wrong pass in the course of a game. If you allow her to be a man, she will play football on the colors of Chelsea.
Does this husband and wife love and passion for Chelsea cut across the entire family?
Yes, let me tell you, my daughter’s name is Chelsea. When she was born outside,I was outside Nigeria then. Before I saw her my wife had already named her Chelsea. That goes to tell you how deep Chelsea is rooted in my family. Make no mistakes about it, very soon,they will begin to call my house Stamford Bridge. Serious, it won’t be long before it happens.
When you came back what was your reaction regarding your wife naming your daughter Chelsea?
I loved it so I had to accept it.
Is there any other close friend to you in the movie industry who shares your love for Chelsea?
Yes, Nkem Owo also loves Chelsea.Victor Osuagwu also loves Chelsea and many others.
You spend more time outside the family, going for rehearsals and on sets. You meet a lot of people including women. Tell us aboutyour relationship with the opposite sex.
Opposite sex, women you mean?
Yes, ladies out there.
Hahahahahaha (long laughter) You’re very funny o. wao….
Okay, share your encounter with any of them if ever with us.
No, no, no, I like making everybody happy. Making people happy is what I like doing in my life whether they are women, men, boys or girls. I make everybody happy as far as you are very close to me. You’ll always be happy being close to me.
If you are not a movie artist, what would you have been doing?
If I were not a movie artist, may be by now I would have been a good boxer. But somehow when I was a boxer, I remember being beaten like a goat in a boxing tournament right inside the ring, so from that moment I said no more boxing for me. So if I were not a an actor I would have been a football administrator.
That’s interesting. But then are you into politics?
I watch do them, I mean I watch the politicians. You watch politics, follow politics but not really into politics…(cuts in) I only watch politics but not into politics. And I listen to their talks, I like them.
The Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) have played a couple of novelty matches with members of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, and other bodies in the past. What impact has these games had in the movie industry?
The novelty games helped in fostering peace and friendliness amongst members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria and with the Sports writers. The matches also afforded us the chance to keep fit. Such times made us come together and had fun. Sports is a powerful tool for peace in the country and being entertainers who are also agents of relaxation, such opportunities allow us to reach out to everybody.
There are some practitioners in the movie industry who had wanted to play professional football but couldn’t quite cut their teeth in the sport. Has the AGN any plans to help upcoming actors and actresses who are not really too talented in acting; and only swayed by their desperation to be popular as film stars to explore active sports?
Well, I don’t know if the national body or the Lagos State chapter has such plans. But if they do, that will be a fantastic idea. We had a couple of practitioners who wanted to play the game of course but for one reason or the other, could not continue to pursue that dream. Like I said earlier, Some of my colleagues like Emeka Ike, Nkem Owoh and Charles Inojie are Chelsea fans like me. It may interest you to know that I was coach of the football team of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and in some of the games we’ve talked about, you could see raw football talents being showcased by some of us. That will be nice really.
You always say John Obi Mikel is your idol as far as Nigerian players in Europe is concerned. Could that be the link between you and Chelsea?
No, no, no, no. I love Chelsea basically because they do business with black people. John Obi Mikel.
is one, Celestine Babayaro is another and a host of other black players from the African continent. Don’t forget too that Chelsea has a Nigeria coach working for them, I mean Michael Emenalo.
But even Arsenal too does business with Nigeria and African players.
I have sympathy for Arsenal but I don’t support them. We (Chelsea) always deal with them.The basis of my bet with my Arsenal fan friend was that Arsenal will not score against Chelsea. I said if there was going to be any goal in the game, it would be for Chelsea. I knew Chelsea was going to leave Emirates Stadium with a point. My friend said Chelsea was going to lose by a goal. We then took a bet of N100,000 each.
That was an extra cash for you over the weekend. What did you do with it?
We spent it on drinks with friends and all of that.
Thank you very much Mr Ibu for sparing some thoughts with us