Gaza Crisis: Ex-Nigeria U-23 Star, Ibezito Ogbonna Recounts How He Survived Rocket Attack On Home In Israel
Before a ceasefire was agreed last week, at least 240 people were killed in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The 38-year-old, who won the Israeli Cup with Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2006 and 2007, was at home with his wife and two young daughters when the building suffered a direct hit.
Although, the rest of his family came out of the rubbles unscathed, the former Enyimba forward sustained injuries and was rushed to the hospital.
In a chat with BBC Sport Africa on Monday, Ogbonna said it was a “miracle” to be alive, narrating how the impact of the rocket threw him across the room.
It’s difficult to explain the impact of what I saw. Coming out of this alive was a complete miracle. We are talking about the same attack that has left several people badly wounded.
I am extremely lucky to be alive after this rocket was fired and it’s third time lucky for me after being involved in a car crash and a horrible robbery incident in Nigeria.
We were all aware of the attempt [possible strike] and we always get the warning signs about possible missiles. We often hear sirens echoing across the city streets which tends to prompt people to rush to a shelter.
On this day I was having breakfast and I heard the wailing siren. Normally, we’d run to the shelter because every house has its own shelter. I felt it’s the normal warning, but within seconds it turned out to be an unlucky day for me.
I heard the loud bang of the rocket and felt the immediate impact. I was thrown into the air and it took me from my dining room to my living room.
The former footballer explained;
I could see glasses and other objects flying around me. I hit the ground, I stood up to look around for my family. They were very lucky too, my wife had taken cover with my daughters, I think one of the doors landed on her.
I could see the whole building was gone. We are talking about a four-storey building with about 30 people. The security doors between my kitchen and living room ripped out and everything totally wrecked.
Cars were smashed and it was then I realised I had a cut and my knee was hurting badly before the paramedics took me in an ambulance to the hospital.
I was in the hospital for a few hours. I was treated and had different tests just to check that everything was okay with me. They weren’t sure I was fine considering what had happened.
Ogbonna, who scored over 40 goals in 132 appearances for Hapoel Tel Aviv, an Israeli club, said the fans of his former club have been offering financial and emotional support since the incident.
Hapoel Tel Aviv fans have been incredibly amazing, without my knowledge they had started a fundraising to help support me.
As soon as the news broke that my apartment was hit, they started reaching out and calling my phone. I didn’t ask them for anything yet they were offering to help.
I remember one of them got my contact and I think he put it out on the fan page for other supporters to reach out. Messages of love, prayers and unbelievable support from a club I left over a decade ago.
Some were telling me to come over to theirs if I had no place to stay. They’ve gone out to buy stuff and clothes for me and my family.
I was getting deliveries of different things at the hotel without even knowing about it. I don’t even know these guys. It’s a massive love and I can’t thank them enough.
It’s another proof that wherever you find yourself as a footballer or whatever you do. Be a good person and respect everyone because you never know when life will bring you back again.
Ogbonna was part of Nigeria’s U-23 squad that took part in the qualifiers to 2008 Olympics in Beijing but he failed to make the cut for the games.
As Gaza and Israel emerge from 11 days of conflict, which has seen mediators seeking to cement the truce and prevent more violence in the longer term, Ogbonna, who now has Israeli citizenship, remains confident that the latter will continue to attract talent from Africa and his native country.