Anebi: Football goalie turned volleyball star


Ebenezer Bajela

Elisha Anebi is one of the biggest volleyball talents in the country, whose development has caught the attention of coaches and several clubs alike.

Having started his sporting career as a footballer goalkeeper, the 17-year-old found love in volleyball and turned out to be one of the best in his category.

“I started with football when I was very little and back then I was a goalkeeper,” he told PUNCH Sports Extra.

“I was a very good keeper, but later I developed a passion for volleyball and in 2017, I completely dumped football for the game I have a passion for and it has been a great journey so far for me.”

Pressed further on his decision to dump football, one of the most lucrative sports, for volleyball, the Warri-born athlete said, “I think it was 2017 and I was about 11 years old then, I saw some very senior players playing the game and I fell in love with it.

“I saw Dikiya Morrison, Sunny Akapson and Ibrahim Adamu playe. Honestly, the passion just came because these are national players who have represented the country at the highest level of volleyball. When I saw them in their jerseys, I instantly fell in love with the game and I wanted to be a national player too.”

The youngster, who hails from Benue State, insisted that he never regreted becoming a volleyball player.

“It might sound crazy dumping football for volleyball, but for me, the primary thing is the passion. I have a very strong passion for the game and I know what I want and the dream is to become a national team player in the next five years or even less.”

The dream of becoming a senior national team player and the journey to achieving that couldn’t have been better for the youngster, who not only joined one of the best clubs in the country, CNS Spikers, but also earned his first invitation to the national team.

Elisha was among the other players handed invitation by the head coach of the Nigeria U-19 team, Adelaku Adeniyi, ahead of preparations for the U-19 Africa Volleyball Championship in Morocco later this month.

“I am very happy to have been invited to the U-19 camp and it shows I am in the right direction,” he said.

“There are many setters in Nigeria, but God gave me the opportunity to be there, and I pray God gives me the strength and skills to make the final list because it will be a dream come true for me. I’m ready to give my all to make Nigeria proud.”

Media Assistant to the President of the Nigeria Volleyball Federation, Dare Kuti, spoke of the immense talents of the up-and-coming talent.

“I have watched him a couple of times and I can say he has what it takes to rise to stardom. He is talented, skillful and has the ability to set up his players.”

Elisha emerged the Best Setter at the Scorpion Spikers Volleyball Inter Club Competition in Abuja in January.

The award is one amongst many that the 17-year-old had won, having also claimed the best player gong at the Kontagora Invitational Challenge.

Unlike some young athletes, who are stopped by their parents from indulging in sports, Anebi told PUNCH Sports Extra his parents were different.

“My parents had always been in support of me playing volleyball; they have always been my number one fan. I am very lucky to have them because with their massive support, I know I can go places.”

Combining education and sports hasn’t been the strongest point of many a Nigerian athlete, but the student of Army Day Senior Secondary School, Maitama, Abuja has everything working in his favour in attaining the heights he dreamed of.

He added, “My secondary school supports sporting activities, especially ball games. So, it was very easy to combine both sports and education as the court where I train with the senior national players was in my school premises.

“Immediately after school I just change and join up to train with the senior players, and it has been great because this has really helped my development.”

On his long-term plan, he said, “My prayer ever since is to play in the national team and I am confident of achieving that. I also pray to play professional volleyball in the next five years.”