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MOSES KPAKOR – WONDERFUL DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER

Moses Kpakor learned how to play football on the streets of Adikpo London, Benue-Plateau State (present-day Benue State) as a goalkeeper.

He transitioned to a libero and then a striker while a youth player at Greater Tomorrow Soccer Academy, Adikpo. While at Government Teachers’ College, Makurdi, he played on either side of midfield (wing-back) because of the head coach’s insistence on playing him in midfield. At the 5th National Sports Festival hosted by Benin in 1981, he played as a defensive midfielder.

Professionally, Kpakor played for Electricity FC of Jos (1981), Hawks FC of Makurdi (1982-83), BCC Lions of Gboko (1983-1986), Abiola Babes (1987), and BCC Lions of Gboko (1988-1999). He played in the final of the Challenge Cup six times and won five of them. This should be a record by a Nigerian player.

That he was a regular in a star-studded Abiola Babes midfield underlines Kpakor’s quality. He vied for a starting position with Ademola Adeshina, Terfa “Terfa System” Kpakor, Joseh Sion, Bode Williams, Muda Lawal, Henry Acquah, and Alaba Oyeleke.

Coach James Peters and a recalled Femi Ojo played Kpakor as a double No. 6 (together with Ademola Adeshina) in a formation that did not require a midfielder to defend too deep.

Moses Kpakor played with his heart and head for club and country, which made him a key cog in the Super Eagles machine that Westerhof was trying to calibrate. He was so versatile in central midfield: he defended well, could break from deep positions, and scored goals. His specialty was the tailored diagonal pass. Kpakor could pass the ball without giving any indication of his intent by his body shape. Kpakor was versatile, too. When the situation demanded, he would drop back occasionally to play sweeper, particularly in important games. Kpakor played in five different positions at Algiers ’90. He man-marked and pocketed one of Africa’s best players in the final of Algiers ’90, Rabah Madjer. Save for Alloy Agu’s mistake for the goal and Jean Diramba’s dubious officiating, the outcome against Algeria in the final might have been different. Put simply, Kpakor had a beautiful balance of strength and skill. Westerhof liked Kpakor and wanted him to replace Stephen Keshi as the Eagles libero. Westerhof felt Keshi was aging and needed to be replaced.

Then, suddenly, during the 1991 season, Kpakor’s rising star as a footballer came crashing. In a league match between BCC Lions of Gboko and Iwuanyanwu Nationale of Owerri on Saturday, June 15, 1991 at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri, Kpakor shattered his right lower limb after a clash with Nationale’s Sylvester Oparanozie. The match was supposed to be one of his last matches for BCC Lions as he had been scheduled to have his medicals at Feyenoord Rotterdam in early July. Being the fighter that he was, he fought to regain full fitness. He made several comebacks for BCC Lions, but he was never the same player.

Kpakor became player/assistant coach when Zackari Baraje took over from Amodu Shuaibu at BCC Lions in 1992.

Finally conceding defeat, he retired from playing football in the late 1990s. But for the injury, I believe Kpakor would have played for the Super Eagles for five or six more years. Until the emergence of Sunday Oliseh in 1993, Clemence Westerhof struggled to find a replacement for Moses Kpakor in the holding-midfield position. The cerebral Moses Kpakor is currently an Assistant Coach in the employ of Benue State University, Makurdi.

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