Ogenyi Eddy Onazi cemented his status as an Idoma icon when he won the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa as an integral member of the Super Eagles, becoming the second Idoma son, after the legend Daniel Amokachi, to win the biggest national competition in African football.
Born in Jos, Plateau State on Christmas day in 1992, Onazi like the other great footballers from Jos like Sam Garba Okoye, Ali Jeje and John Obi Mikel, honed his skills from an early age playing “Monkey Post” on the streets.
In early 2004, Onazi joined Pepsi Football Academy in Jos but only stayed there for six months before moving over to El-Kanemi Junior FC, a youth development club in Jos. At El-Kanemi Junior, he began to show promise and in no time attracted the attention of scouts from bigger youth clubs around the country.
In 2007, Onazi signed for My People FC Lagos, an academy with a track record for developing young players. At My People, he continued to improve as a player and in 2009, alongside Sani Emmanuel, he was called in as replacement for two Golden Eaglets players who failed age verification MRI scans in the run up to the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Abuja. Though Onazi only played three matches in the tournament as Nigeria lost to Switzerland in the finals, he made a good enough impression on international scouts.
After going on trials with different clubs in Europe, 18 year old Onazi finally signed for Italian Serie A side, SS Lazio of Rome in March 2011. He played for Lazio youth team until 6th May 2012 when he made his senior debut coming on as substitute in a 2 – 0 victory over Atalanta. He would go on to play 76 times for Lazio between 2012 and 2016 scoring 4 goals.
During his time at Lazio Onazi won the 2013 Coppa Italia final in a 1 – 0 victory over fierce local rivals AS Roma but lost the 2013 Supercoppa Italiana, 2015 Coppa Italia final and 2015 Supercoppa Italiana. While in Italy he also he played in the 2012/13 (lost in quarter-final), 2013/14 (lost in round of 32) and, 2015/16 (lost in round of 16) UEFA Europa Cup competitions.
Onazi made his Super Eagles debut on 13th October 2012 in a Calabar against Liberia in an African Cup of Nations qualifying match. He would go on to be a key member of the team at the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa, playing all matches as Nigeria beat Burkina Faso in the finals to win the competition for a third time. On return to Nigeria, the players and coach were given national honours and Onazi is now Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).
Onazi was a member of the Super Eagle team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, playing all four Nigeria matches at the tournament. He was also a member of the Super Eagles team to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia though he did not get to play any match at the tournament. Onazi missed the 2019 African Cup of Nations due to a ruptured Achilles tendon which kept him on the side-lines from December 2018 to September 2019.
On 1st August 2016, Onazi swapped Italy for Turkey when he signed for Trabzonspor, making his competitive debut on 20th August 2016 in a 2-0 victory over Kasimpasa in his club first match of the 2016/17 Turkish Super Lig. He has gone to become a regular for Trabzonspor making 32 appearances in his first season, 24 appearances in 2017/2018 season and 16 appearances in 2018/19 season before his Achilles injury. He returned to action following his long injury layoff on 12th December 2019 in a 2 – 0 defeat to Swiss side Basel in the Europa Cup.
In January 2020, Onazi joined another Turkish side, Denizilispor on an 18-month contract.
The Good Guy
Onazi was in the news in October 2013 after he chased and caught a pick pocket who stole the wallet of a tourist down the streets of Rome. And to help nurture future generation of Nigeria footballers, in June 2015 he established the Ogenyi Onazi five-a-side football competition for under 18 youth clubs in Benue and Plateau States.
Aside from his footballing skills, Onazi is also known for his generosity. In December 2016, Onazi donated N1m to the Super Falcons during their protest over non-payment of their playing bonuses and also gave N200, 000 to injured Super Falcons defender, Onome Ebi to help with her medical bills. Not one to forget friends, in November 2019, he paid the N1.4m medical bills of his erstwhile My People FC, Golden Eaglets and Lazio teammate, Sani Emmanuel.
A choir boy while growing up in Jos, Onazi is still big on his music and often post videos of him playing the piano on his twitter feed. Onazi married his long term fiancée, Sandra on 31st December 2015 and they are blessed with two daughters.
- Ogenyi Onazi, Wikipedia. [online] Available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogenyi_Onazi [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- World Cup 2014: Nigeria profile – Ogenyi Onazi, The Guardian. [online] Available from https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/jun/04/world-cup-2014-nigeria-ogenyi-onazi [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- Onazi Ogenyi finally debuts for Lazio, African Football. [online] Available from https://africanfootball.com/news/233134/Onazi-Ogenyi-finally-debuts-for-Lazio [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- Eaglet Onazi soars to fly with the Super Eagles, African Football. [online] Available from https://africanfootball.com/news/201278/Eaglet-Onazi-soars-to-fly-with-the-Super-Eagles [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- 17. Ogenyi Onazi, Soccerbase. [online] Available from https://www.soccerbase.com/players/player.sd?player_id=65052 [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- Super Eagles midfielder donates N1M to Super Falcons, Pulse.ng. [online] Available from https://www.pulse.ng/sports/football/ogenyi-onazi-super-eagles-midfielder-donates-n1m-to-super-falcons/btpcepv [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- Sani Emmanuel: Onazi pays for ex-Nigeria U-17 star's surgery, BBC Football. [online] Available from https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/50547515 [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- He's usually chasing down rival midfielders, but Lazio ace catches thief by running after him down street in Rome, Daily Mail. [online] Available from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2442343/Lazio-star-Ogenyi-Onazi-snares-crook-street-chase-Rome.html [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- Presidential reward for Super Eagles, BBC Football. [online] Available from https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/21450619 [Accessed 23 December 2019]
- Onazi: Denizlispor snap up Trabzonspor midfielder on permanent deal, Goal. [online] Available from https://www.goal.com/en-ph/news/onazi-denizlispor-snap-up-trabzonspor-midfielder-on/1ukmkr6p83klo1ses5ok2idg2x [Accessed 01 February 2020]