Dubai: Odafe Onyeka Okolie is only 23 years old. And after winning the "Golden Boot" for a record third time in-a-row last month, the Nigerian wants to scramble towards international recognition by looking beyond the revamped I-League.
Odafe bagged the honour after his team Churchill Brothers, Goa, steam-rolled Mohammedan Sporting 6-2 in the last-round match of the Indian Football League to clinch their first-ever title after 13 years of the professional competition in India. Odafe's success can be weighed with his amazing tally of 26 goals during the season for Churchill Brothers.
On the other hand, there was a comparative newcomer in the form of Croatian coach Zoran Djordjevic, who had been rushed to Goa mid-season after the Churchill Brothers camp was in shambles due to player-coach rumblings.
Zoran too, made an impact by picking up the award for the best coach in the I-League in only his maiden venture in the sub-continent.
However, both now find themselves at the cross-roads of their respective careers - one by choice and the other by chance. Odafe is eager to export his talent to another country, while coach Zoran toys with the idea of fresh challenges ahead.
Churchill Brothers supremo Churchill Alemao has not mixed words while asserting his eagerness in keeping his talismanic striker for another season. Reportedly, there are a handful of clubs - high-spending East Bengal from Kolkata among them - who are willing to break the bank to have Odafe in their ranks for the next season.
Coach Zoran, on the other hand, would love to continue with the champions as they face the prospect of taking on the best teams on the continent while participating in the AFC Champions League next season. "My father loves to take on new challenges," Zoran's Dubai-based son, Mirko told Gulf News.
Word has it that Zoran is yet to commit himself to Churchill Brothers for the new season. In fact, he is scheduled to make a trip to South Africa for a promotional tour related with the 2010 Fifa World Cup after which the season will take its traditional summer break.
"The club management and my father are yet to arrive at an agreement for the next season. But I feel confident my father would love the challenge of leading the Indian champions in the AFC Champions League next year," Mirko asserted.
Time alone will tell if the duo will continue with Churchill Brothers next season.