When does a footballer turn into a national icon? Is it when he finally earns a price tag of millions on the trade market? Or is it when he fights a lone war and helps his county qualify for a World Cup? Or could it be when a street is named after him? Nigeria’s most colourful character, Emmanuel Emenike, can stake a clam, having achieved the first two.
When Turkish giants Fenerbahce bought him for $13m, the 27-year old became Nigeria’s most expensive export of all time. Also, with three goals in the Super Eagles’ last two do-or-die matches, Emenike also did his fair share in registering a spot in Brazil. Now all that was left was getting his name on a street sign. And Emenike wasn’t in the mood to wait for the decision-makers in Abuja to take the call.
So, Nigeria’s latest millionaire did it on his own. He first bought property worth 500 million naira in Lagos’ Manhattan, the Chevy View Estate and promptly rechristened the main road as ‘Emmanuel Emenike Street.’ “Great,” sighed one national newspaper in Nigeria. “Our only footballer worthy of a street name is the only Nigerian footballer who has been arrested for match-fixing.”
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In 2011, just two months after he joined Fenerbahce, Emenike was put behind bars for his alleged role in fixing matches.
Although he was charged by the court, the judge had no ‘credible evidence’ against him, considering he didn’t play a single match for the club! Then, a month on, he was sold to Spartak Moscow, becoming the only man to have ever joined and left the Turkish side without playing a match.
But with Emenike, no-shows seem to have plenty of rewards. Fenebahce bought back the man they were once desperate to get rid of in 2013. And a month on, Nigeria had its only footballer-labelled street.