If there was an award for the Sunshine Stars impact player of the just ended 2020/2021 NPFL season, there would be little debate as to the winner as that will surely go to one Ejike Uzoechi, a Central defender who shone like a million stars while the season lasted.
Uzoechi joined the struggling Sunshine Stars during the midseason transfers window on a short loan spell from Nigeria National League (NNL) side, Nnewi United FC. Sunshine Stars Coach, Deji Ayeni saw him play firsthand when, as then Ekiti United Coach, his side faced Nnewi United in their NNL clash at the Ekiti Stadium and Uzoechi was impressive in the game.
The moment Ayeni got appointed Coach of the relegation-haunted ‘Owena Waves’ to replace Gbenga Ogunbote, his first midseason signing was Ejike ‘The Incredible’ Uzoechi, and the young man did not disappoint. He sllotted into Sunshine’s team with ease.
Sunshine Stars and the City of Akure were virtually without any shine and had almost forgotten how to celebrate victory with an NPFL record Eighteen (18) consecutive winless games, but Uzoechi was immense in his debut driving his team as he scored on his debut to end what was becoming a jinx.
The Enugu-born defender masterfully directed his header into the net for a 1-0 victory over visiting Dakkada FC of Uyo for Sunshine Stars’ first win in five Months.
“I could not believe it, but it was a great feeling for me, even though the fans were not there in their numbers, but the joy I saw on the faces of all present gave me unquantifiable happinness.” Uzoechi said.
After that performance the 6’2 tall defender became a favourite amongst Sunshine Stars fans.
Uzoechi practically carried Sunshine Stars on his back to swim out of the murky waters of relegation and restored the shine in the Sun at the Akure Township Stadium.
He played Eleven key league matches and four Aiteo Cup games.
He scored three match-winning goals against Dakkada (1-0), Plateau United (3-2), Rivers United (1-0), and scored a vital one point-grabbing goal in their 1-1 draw against Enyimba in Aba.
It was a Man of the match performance on the final day of the season for Uzoechi as he proved very decisive scoring the only goal of the game in the 5th minute to disunite Rivers United and sent the Akure fans into wild jubilation as the goal and win helped the Akure Gunners escape the drop on the last match-day of the season.
While two of his four goals were headed in, the other two were scored with his stronger right foot to show that he is an all action centre-back with incredible aerial ability and penchant for goals.
Uzoechi added: “I can’t wait for the new season to start as l want to really show the stuff I am made of again. What you all saw last season, there are much more where that came from and Icant wait to showcase them”.
If you are searching for one of the most consistent and modern centre backs in the Nigeria Professional football league, look towards the big, strong, reliable and formidable Ejike Uzoechi who is humgry for more.
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