My first Christmas card this holiday season came from Magnus Chisom Onwudiwe, a dedicated disciple of the show whose loyal listening over the years has cemented his nickname of The Humble Apostle of the Sonny Side of Sports.
Magnus writes, “Season’s Greetings from Owerri in Imo State, Nigeria. It is with a heart full of love that I send greetings to you and your family, as well as everyone at the Voice of America. Sonny, I really missed you during your visit to Nigeria.”
My visit to Nigeria in October was one of the most memorable trips of my VOA career.
During stops in Lagos and Abuja, I met Nigerian friends who, like Magnus, told me they had grown up listening to the Sonny Side of Sports.
Ferdinand Nwachukwu, Station Manager at VOA partner Sports Radio 88.9 Brila FM in Abuja, gave me an official pardon after saying he had written me some letters several years ago without getting any response.
With a forgiving heart, Ferdinand hosted me on his lively sports call-in show and also introduced me to his staff in Abuja.
Earlier, in Lagos, I received a rousing welcome from Dr. Larry Izamoje, the CEO of Sports Radio 88.9 Brila FM, his wife, Bridget, and fans of my program.
Dr. Larry and Bridget presented me with some beautiful gifts, including traditional Nigerian attire fit for a chief.
Looking back on 2014, I was delighted that VOA’s longtime Bangla sportswoman, Roquia Haider, could join me and Ghanaian football player Samuel Inkoom on my 30-minute radio show.
Roquia, now the chief of VOA’s Bangla Service, was one of the first people I met after being hired by the Voice of America in 1988. She asked Inkoom about his development as a player in Ghana as well as his impressions of Major League Soccer (MLS).
The 25-year-old Inkoom played only a few matches for D.C. United, the MLS club based here in Washington, before being traded to the Houston Dynamo last week.
Early in the year, another young Ghanaian football player, Joshua Yaro, also visited our VOA studios here in Washington.
Joshua says he’s focused on his education at Georgetown University, but he also hasn’t ruled out a professional football career.
Last week, Joshua earned All-American honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and he’s being touted as a possible #1 overall pick in next month’s MLS Draft.
Yaro and Inkoom both got their kicks in 2014, and I look forward to getting a few more too in 2015.