Contributor: Victor Amokeodo
The Boy Wonder
Gadaffi Ifediora-Ezike is the fourth and last child of Jupo and Cecilia Ezike. His father - Jupo - an Ibo architect was born in Eastern Nigeria and studied at Ahmadu Bello University in Northern part of the country. He has however lived and practised as an architect in Britain for the past thirty years. Gadaffi was born in London in May 1984. He was named after the Libyan leader because - as his father put it - "He is the greatest African leader, no matter what the West says."
Although only ten years old, Gadaffi's talent has already attracted great interest. Stories have been written about him in National dailies, and he was featured prominently on a BBC 2 documentary, First sight, in February. He is currently the subject of an F.A. hearing between Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers FCs, both struggling to secure his talents for themselves.
How did all this begin? How was his extraordinary talent discovered? According to Jupo, it all started when he was just 6 years old. His mother, Cecilia, was a student as well as a worker and her tight schedule only allowed her to pick him up from school in the evenings, long after many of his classmates had gone home. Gadaffi spent this time - between 3.30 and 6 pm when she came for him - on the playground playing football with the other kids also waiting for their parents to come for them. It was then that the play leader - one Mr Bart Small - noticed that this lively kid from Tottenham had a special gift. Bart Small advised Gadaffi's parents to introduce him to a youth football club. The play-leader, with the consent of Gadaffi's parents - took him to trials at Westward Boys club where he was promptly accepted. Bart Small also went on to introduce him to Arsenal summer school.
At Westward Boys, he played Sunday league and midweek games after which he moved on to Bloomsbury football club. Here matches were played on Fridays and it was here that scouts began to notice him. According to his father, each time he played a match, the opposing team were so taken in by his skills that they began to make enquiries about him.
Gadaffi currently attends the Paul Elliot academy - the coaching clinic run by the former Celtic and Chelsea defender of the same name. He also plays for County park in the ECHO under-11 league and for Camden district schools.
What laurels has he won so far? "Oh you can see," said Jupo pointing at the mantlepiece with a flourish. On it was displayed a vast (no exaggeration) array of trophies, medals and shields. His father explained that they were not all Gadaffi's, though. Apparently there was another budding star in the I-Ezike family before Gadaffi emerged. According to Jupo, Gadaffi's older brother, Tagbo, was also a keen footballer but his interest waned when he went to an independent boarding school. "The emphasis was more on academics over there." he said.
Given the many trophies he has amassed, we obviously couldn't publish the list, so we asked him to tell us the best three trophies or honours he has won?
"When I got players player of the year in my first season at Westward boys." came the confident response. There was no hesitation in the reply as a look of pride spread across his features. "Also when I won the top scorer award for the same team last season. I got 70 goals." Then he paused as he tried to remember the third favourite of his many exploits. His father tried to help but he quickly cut in: "I know...I know.. when I got man of the match .. at the cup finals."
"That was in the Bloomsbury under-10s versus Clerkenwell Boys." Jupo explained.
What is the nature of the fight between Arsenal and QPR over Gadaffi and how did this come about?
"What happened was that the QPR scouts came behind my back and they offered him some inducements...
"They signed him...." interrupted his bespectacled brother, Tagbo.
"Yes and the signing was in contravention of the FA regulations. But they signed him. While I was away. When I came back, I asked to see the agreement but they didn't like this. The scout who was to take him to the QPR ground stopped taking him. When he leaves school at 3.30, they used to pick him up and take him to the QPR ground and they didn't bring him back until 11.30pm and so his whole day is finished. He becomes useless, he doesn't do his homework. He hasn't even got enough sleep before he goes to school the following day."
And how often was this?
"Well, it was only meant to be once a week, but he only went to the QPR grounds for 4 weeks and because he likes to play football, I approached Arsenal who admitted that they had had their eyes on him all the time and they agreed to sign him on. But then QPR got up and said No, he is our property. So the case had to be taken to the FA. The case has not yet been resolved. So far, the FA don't seem to be following their regulations because they said players under 10 must be within a one-hour travelling time from the club that signs them on, you see. And apart form this, there are so many things contravened by the agreement with QPR.
And how is he being prepared for an alternative career given the uncertainty of a footballing career?
"That is why I refused to sign him with any club because I want him to first of all face his studies. I want football at this stage to be second to his books. Just for him to enjoy it so that he doesn't get involved in all these childish pranks that kids get into nowadays."
What would he like to be if he does not end up playing football?
Who is his hero in the England team or in football in general?
"I won't like to be like anybody in England. I want to be like Romario because he has very good control and he doesn't get hurt."
If he had to choose anyone in the England team, anyway, who would it be?
"Matt Le Tissier. I like his skills."
His best and worst moments so far: "When I got my players player of the year when I was seven and my worst moment was when I got sent off.."
When was that? "Westward boys versus Pegasus, two seasons ago."