BY E. SAMUEL ESSIEN in QUEENS – NEW YORK
“For diaspora communities across the globe, sport continues to be an integral connection to their native countries,” says Mori Taheripour in her 2011 posting, “Development, Diaspora and the Universal Language of Sports.”
Ms. Taheripour is senior advisor for Sports for development at the United States Agency for Internal Development (USAID).
But for Chief Itata Itata, a Nigerian migrant in the USA, he had no idea that his passion and initiative as a sports fan of his country’s national soccer team would earn him recognition decades ahead.
A new book by Mumini Aloa, a Nigerian sports journalist, provides insights into how Chief Itata and other US based Nigeria sports enthusiasts stepped in as a substitute Nigeria Soccer Supporters Club. This scenario played out in 1996 when the arrival of the main club expected from Nigeria was delayed during the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
In that fortuitous circumstance, the void had to be filled and Chief Itata rose to the occasion. He stepped in and provided the expected leadership by mobilising local fans.
That maverick stroke of genius did not pass unnoticed.
Author Alao recalls in his, The Making of Nigeria’s Dream Team, “They were able to make some noise to drive the Dream Team along.” The book was published by De-Atman Press Limited, Lagos, Nigeria.
Chief Itata did not have a hint of the new book or the content. “I got a surprise message a few days ago from my good friend, Dr Alao, General Manager and Editor in Chief of Complete Sports Communications and Complete Football International,” says an ecstatic Chief Itata.
“He informed me he had just launched his book, which chronicled the preparations and journey of Nigeria as we went on to win the Football gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He further indicated that he had included me in the book.”
“True to his word, he indeed recalled my involvement with the team as a leader of the Nigerian Football Supporters Club. It’s a very interesting book and captures our heroes and their path to historic victory in a vivid and entertaining style.”
Chief Itata, Chief Executive Officer of Premier Golden Health Care Services, LLC. Dallas-Worth, Texas, studied law at the University of Calabar and the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, Nigeria. He also studied at the Texas A & M Law School, College Station, Texas.
A philanthropist, Chief Itata promotes sports development and is a member of Prof. Kevin Ita’s Sports, a WhatsApp platform. His company is a key financial supporter of Ubium Development Association in USA (UDA), which performs free short- term medical missions for the less privileged.
As a young legal practitioner in Nigeria, he was appointed the inaugural Legal Adviser of the Nigerian Supporters Club by its famous President, Dr Rafiu Ladipo. In that capacity, he became a member of the NFA Protocol Committee for the 1994 World Cup.
Nurtured by his passion and involvement in sports in his freshman year at the prestigious Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar, the birthplace of Nigerian football, Chief Itata became a member of the golden University of Calabar football team that won the national Pepsi-Cola football Championship in 1986.
At the national level, Chief Itata was also a known name in Nigeria, going by the numerous national sports-forum to which he held membership, notably the Nigeria Sports Support Forum (NSSF). Moderated by Dr. Tee Akinbinu, NSSF is an exclusive forum of sports administrators, coaches, top sports journalists and former Internationals, and also serves as an advisory and sounding board for all Nigerian sports.
Chief Itata is also a distinguished member of the Cyber-Eagles forum, the oldest Nigerian online sports Mecca, as well as the 9ja Footie Review, devoted to the development of Nigerian domestic and international football.
According to the publisher, “The making of Nigeria’s Dream Team: Football Gold Medal Winners at Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games is an in-depth account of the formation, preparation, and coronation of the Nigeria under-23 football team that shocked the world to emerge as the first African team to win the Gold medal in the football event of the Olympic Games at the Centennial edition in Atlanta… in 1996.”