Trabzonspor midfielder Ogenyi Onazi opens up on life as a married man and how he stopped a thief in his track in Rome in an interview with JOHNNY EDWARD
How has marriage shaped you?
You know when you are single, there are lots of things you do without even thinking. You don’t ask for the consent of anybody but at the point you’re married, you have a wife, a companion and somebody you have to share things with. So, it means there are lots of things you can’t just do anyhow, anymore.
Can you share an experience?
Now as a family man, I don’t go out too often as I have to plan how I spend my time. This is another important part of my life which has really given me a kind of calmness to plan, making me know what I need to do and what I don’t need to do.
What is the difference between living and playing football in Italy and Turkey?
Well, the difference is not much. Then in Italy, I had little time to play music with my friends, because you can find Nigerians in Rome which is a big city and you can call somebody to come around and play.
But now in Turkey, it’s very difficult. I’m not even staying in Istanbul. I’m staying in Trabzon and anyone you want to call will say it’s too far. So, it’s very difficult and that’s why I’ve not played music since I got to Turkey.
There was this documented story about you having lunch in a restaurant in Rome and there was a woman who had her handbag snatched and you ran after the fellow, knocked him down and retrieved the stolen bag. It was an extraordinary story. Can you recount exactly what really happened?
It actually happened when I was having lunch with my elder brother at Rome restaurant, which was filled with tourists and I saw one guy acting suspiciously. So, I told my brother that the guy must be up to something because he was actually looking at me and my brother and looking around.
I realised we were the only young people in the restaurant as the others were more elderly people around 40 to 45 years of age. So, I told my brother to go and lock my car first because I don’t know if I was the target or someone else. I got even more suspicious because of the umbrella the guy was holding because I thought it was a very hot afternoon but the area we were was well covered.
Some people were sitting behind my table and the guy came towards them, passed right behind me and used the umbrella as a shield to block my view. He took the bag and walked very fast across the road. I realised he had taken something because he kept looking back as he was going but the people he stole from were quite drunk and not aware of what had happened.So, I told my brother to run and go through the other road and lay an ambush for him while I followed him.
The streets in Rome are very long and you must cover about 300 meters before you can turn to another street. The guy was not alone and had about three other people but because they saw we were serious about the issue, they acted as if they were not involved. So, as I was following him and before I could get into the streets to clearly see him, he had thrown the bag under a car and started to run without it, I had to chase him.
By the time he made the turn to another street, my brother, who was hiding beside a car stretched out his leg and tripped him. He fell down and I came and held him but he shouted that he had not taken anything but I insisted he had to come back to the restaurant with us. A lady who apparently was one of the gang members then came and was shouting as if he was her husband saying, “Leave him, he has not taken anything”, but I said no chance.
By this time, we had created a big scene with several people starring to see what will happen. So, I took him through the same route he had been running and I was searching all around until I saw the bag under the car. So, I asked him to pick it up himself so as not to implicate me, and then I took him back to the place he took it from.
The owner of the bag, a woman, still did not know what was happening until she saw her bag and her eyes seemed to clear because she started shouting, “This is my bag.”
The bag was handed over to her and I asked her to check her money. She counted it and said it was complete – and it was quite a lot of money – and she said, “Oh, thank you, thank you.” I said its okay. Then people started to beat the guy as they were passing, so I told the owners of the restaurant that I wanted to leave and that they should call the police and hand the guy over to them because I don’t want to be involved officially. So, I left, but somehow, some people had already made some videos and that’s how it got to the media.
Were you not afraid that he might be armed?
Well, we had seen things like this while growing up in Jos, so it was not something to be scared about. If he was armed, he can’t take the gun. And even if he takes the gun, definitely he is not smarter than me.
How do you find time to relax? Do you travel or you go on holidays?
Unfortunately, I hate traveling and it’s definitely not my way of relaxing. I love to relax by playing music in the church. I also relax by being with my friends, around people who make me happy and we can all share laughter.
Then I also love playing TV games and table tennis if I can find someone who is at the same level as me. If you’re too good for me I will stop playing with you because you’ll only be dealing with me (laughs). In fact, I have someone who always comes and play with me and I always beat him. That person is Funnybone. I have beaten him several times but he keeps coming back.