Plateau United's unsung hero Itodo speaks on special gift

By Fisayo Dairo

Football as a sport has its uniqueness in the dynamism of teams to make use of certain set-skill that are deemed legitimate within the ambits of the rules governing the game to gain favourable results for themselves.

Special skills such as the ability to take accurate free kicks, corner kicks and long throw-ins have made some players indispensable to their teams as they have delivered important victories to their teams at one time or the other through these special talents.

While quite a lot of footballers can take good free kicks and corner kicks based on practice and so there may be many of such specialists in a team, ability to take long throw-ins are rare and have often landed teams of average footballers into the top places of their leagues.

Since the start of this millenium, the exploits of stars such as Austin 'Jay-Jay' Okocha and Rory Delap from the touch line in swinging such weaponry throws cannot be overemphasized in turning their perennially struggling sides in England - Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City respectively - into mid-table finishers and sometimes continental hopefuls.

In the early 80s, Godwin Obinyan was a famous asset for Stationery Stores with his long throw-ins which helped his team to negotiate their way through tricky results. Also, Super Eagles legend, Stephen Keshi (of blessed memory) was also known for his long throw exploits with New Nigerian Bank while Mike Onyemachara of African Continental Bank (ACB) FC also took it to another level in the early 90s.

Nigeria Professional Football League table-toppers Plateau United may have captivated many with their free-flowing style of football known with their coach, Kenedy Boboye but in Daniel Itodo, they have a secret weapon they use in adding to the miseries of their opponents. Itodo, the team's first choice left-back has won many battles for his team with his throw-ins.

Since the start of last season, Itodo has contributed nine assists, more than any left-back in the top flight in that period, with all directly coming from his long throw-ins. Apart from the direct assists, Itodo's throw-ins have led to goalscoring situations for his side and in a chat to, he is grateful for his special talent.

"I will like to thank the Almighty God. This is a gift from God as you can see," began the ever present full back.

"I will also like to thank those who inspired me including coach Christopher Danjuma (Head coach of Women league side, Nasarawa Amazons) who gave me the training while coming up in Kaduna," he added.

Such is the influence of Itodo that although he made 28 appearances for Plateau United last term, he has already started 15 out of their 17 games this season. Playing in a vital full back position requires not just the ability to take throw-ins but also the mobility to go forward and backward in split seconds. Itodo has all these combined with good delivery on the feet as well and he admits they all come through training hard.

"Training is important," he said. "I know it is football so no team will play me for taking throw-ins alone so I train myself hard in other ways to make sure they allow me be on the pitch so I can display my long throw-in talent too," added Itodo who claims Jay-Jay Okocha's long throw-ins at Bolton Wanderers also inspired him.

As Plateau United journey through to the mid-season almost assured of staying in the top-three of the NPFL, Itodo's asset will definitely come in handy for the team in the second part of the season especially in games when the team are expected to show some signs of weariness that every championship winning side exhibit from time to time.

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