Former Orlando Pirates and Nigerian international, Onyekachi Okwonko, has adviced South African players to move abroad and experience football at the highest level.
The former midfielder joined The Buccaneers from Enyimba in 2004 and helped the club reach the 2006 Caf Champions League semifinals.
After three seasons with Pirates, he joined FC Zurich in Switzerland.
“When I moved to Europe the culture was different and the weather was cold,” Okwonko recalls.
“It was very cold and it affected me for a while. But playing there was a great experience and a lot easier than playing in Africa.
My advice to South African players, you have to think about the next step because South Africa is a stepping stone. They have to go and play outside the country and experience a different type of football and culture.
By playing in Europe, you also have a chance of playing in the EUFA Champions League. This can also help your national team.”
Since retiring from football two years, ‘Tico’ owns Real Estate in Nigeria where he builds and sells properties.
“I’m in Real Estate business in Nigeria and everything has been going well so far. Working in Real Estate is different from playing football but in my opinion, it’s still a good business career.
And it was not that difficult to change a career path from football to Real Estate. If you want to succeed after your football career, you have to plan your path before you retire.
Don’t wait for the day you retire before making plans – always plan ahead of time. In my case, I had all my plans in place two years before I retired.
But I still miss South African football. I miss the fans, the way they support their teams and the atmosphere at the stadiums.
I joined Orlando Pirates from Enyimba and the system of play was not that different. Enyimba is also a big club but change was very important at that point in my career.
Adjusting to South African football was not difficult because my technique is also good just like South African players and I could also fight for the ball. My best memories were obviously playing in the Soweto Derby and the matches against Sundowns.”