Celebrity

Meet The Sodje Brothers

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THE Sodje dynasty is synonymous with football and by extension sports in general. Though the family originated from Warri in Delta State, most of them were born in the United Kingdom. The Sodjes have four siblings who are either currently playing football professionally or just retired from the round leather game. Sam Sodje is still playing for Nigeria’s national team. Efe has just called it quits with the Super Eagles after many years of adorning the green white green jersey, while Steve Sodje only played in the premier league in the UK. Another of the Sodje brothers, Akpos is still very much active in the game.

The Sodje brothers currently run a foundation called The Sodje Foundation, they were at Agege Stadium, Agege, Lagos, where they donated football kits to football teams. According to them, they have been doing this for 15 years. We took three of the brothers Sam, Efe and Steven up on this foundation and more.

 

 

Efe Sodje

Efe Sodje

‘Football brought me to limelight’, Ex-Super Eagles player, Efe Sodje

What was the target when you started this giving back programme?

We were born in London but we grew up in Warri, Delta State. So, we played our football in Warri with bare feet. So, we thought since we have the opportunity, we earn good money in England playing, so we are going to donate football kits to the youths. And we feel great doing this, putting smiles in the faces of our youths.

Like how many kits have you given out in this trip?

We have given more than 200 football kits including jerseys and boots and we are giving more with time.

What will you say has sustained the charity programme since inception?

It’s the passion for the game, we spend our money every year. I and my brother make money from the game so we pool resources together to fund the charity work. But we can still do more if we have sponsors.

The Sodjes are synonymous with sports, are there any of your other siblings who are into something else?

My older brother, Barrister (Chief) Solomon Sodje is in Abuja. He is a lawyer, we have got also Chief Bright Sodje, he lives in London. He is a JP (Justice of Peace). My two sisters are into banking in the US, I also have another brother in the US studying Law. Steven Sodje is a banker, I got my own degree in Business Finance, my younger sister is a model and businesswoman. We are all educated but we have a talent and we grew up with the talent that’s why you see us play football.

That means you have a large family?

We are 11 children, one mother and one father. In Nigeria, when they hear somebody has 11 children they usually ask how many wives. My father has only one woman which is our mother.

What will you say playing football has done for you?

It has brought me where I am today. We have made money in the game so we want to give out. We want to tell people that no matter your background, you can make it. You can also be a big star but you have to come down and see the reality of life around.

Which club side are you playing for presently?

Bury FC. It’s a league one club near Manchester.

When was the last time you played for Nigeria?

That was 2005, when I played in the Mandela’s Cup.

Can you still honour invitation to the Super Eagles if invited?

I will never say no, but I think my time is gone. But my brother is still playing and I think he deserves to play for Nigeria. They should give him the opportunity.

Apart from playing football what else gives you money?

Just football at the moment and I have my coaching badges. I have my B licence, I coach and I do charity work.

How about your family, wife and children?

I am not married yet.

I thought you should have?

I was married, but we got divorced and I plan to remarry.

Any kids yet?

We are expecting one.

 

Steven Sodje

Steven Sodje

‘Playing football at the highest level is one of my achievement’, Steven Sodje

Can you give us a brief history of the Sodje Foundation and its impact on the people?

The foundation is all about youth empowerment through sport. We came to Lagos after meeting with the Lagos FA committee in London and we discussed how we can make changes in the way coaching and football is done in Nigeeria. So, we came up with a programme where we will visit Lagos, I and my brothers and premier league coaches. We decided to come with sports equipment because one of the things that is lacking in Nigerian youths in sports is the facilities and equipment to carry out these things. So, equipping them with the right items will assist them in achieving their goals.

Is the foundation also into scouting?

We are not here on a scouting mission.  Sodje Foundation is a UK-based charity. We are here to empower them. Empowerment is the key, that’s what we are doing by staying in school and at the same time doing sports. That’s the way you keep kids out of the street.

Tell us some of the places you have impacted on the youths.

We have been to Epe, Ikorodu. We have few more days to move around.

What’s your plan for continuity?

We have been doing this for 15 years, spending our money. We have been to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ogun State. We have these items in the UK, but the most important thing is funding for the foundation. We do one trip in a year, if we have sponsors we can do more.

The Sodje dynasty is synonymous with sport, can you tell us which one you are into?

I was a footballer in the UK. I played professional football for years. I played for Milwall and Cardiff, I played football at the highest level for 15 years, I stopped last year due to injury. Though I didn’t get the chance to play for Nigeria, but my brothers are doing that nearly every two years.

What will you say football has done for you?

I and my brothers played football at the highest level in the UK, but we don’t forget where we are from. We are from Warri in Delta, football has made us what we are today. We have experienced living in Nigeria, we know how difficult it is for the youths here that is the reason we are coming back every year to give away things. We can’t forget where we are coming from.

For how long have you been in the UK now?

I lived in Nigeria from 1980 to 1987, I have been in the UK since 1987. But I have been in Nigeria nearly every two years.

Apart from football, what else gives you money?

I am an investment banker. I have given up banking last year May to concentrate full time on the foundation because we believe there is a lot of work to be done with the foundation. We want sponsors to make this thing big.

 

Sam Sodje

Sam Sodje

‘There was a time I couldn’t afford pair of boots’, Super Eagles player, Sam Sodje

What is the concept behind this Sodje Sports Foundation?

To give and empower the youths. It’s like giving back to the society where we come from, we didn’t have that when we were younger. We grew up in Warri, Delta State. We grew up with the likes of Christian Obodo, Wilson Oruma, etc. Growing up was hard, if I didn’t love the game I probably wouldn’t have played because I didn’t have the chance to own a pair of boots. I think I was 14 when I got my first book in the UK. I even saw 5 year-old kids with five pairs of boots. When we were very young, we played with our bare feet or trainers. As I speak now I can afford 10 pairs of boots while some don’t have one. So, I and my brothers thought of giving out these things to encourage the youths to play the game and at the same time go to school. I have made a lot of money playing the game, so I need to give back.

Which club side are you playing for presently?

I play for North County FC in the league 1. I had injury for sometime but I am back now.

Will you still honour the call if invited to the Super Eagles camp?

I hope I am involved. The few times I played for Nigeria, my performance spoke for itself. Because I play abroad does not mean I can’t play for my country. Forget about the tag foreign-based, we are all footballers. I hope I get the chance and if I don’t, I will still be supporting the national team.

When was the last time you played for the Super Eagles and what fond memories of playing here do you still have?

My last game was against South Korea. Playing in the national team has always been a good experience.

Do you remember who bought your first boot for you?

My brother, because I was lucky enough to have brothers who are playing football. I wore my first boot when I was 16.

Who are those you still love to play with in the national team?

I have played with Okocha, Kanu, I can play with anyone as long as it’s my country, Nigeria.

Apart from football, what else gives you money?

I do business. I was playing for Reading in the premiership and I got injured in my knee. I was scared of life so I got into business. I am a very good businessman.

Are you married now?

I am married now. I got a new daughter in the UK, my wife is British. She was born in London though a Nigerian.

  • FOLUSO SAMUEL and JOSHUA SHOBIYE

This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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