I was ten. It was in the year 2000, the turn of the millennium. I recall they called it Y2K. Lol! All I wanted to do was one thing – play football. School, all those things didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to kick the round leather about.
I was born and raised in Mushin, Lagos State, Nigeria’s economic eyes and its most populated city. People say Mushin boys are known for thuggery. But I wasn’t interested in that. I just wanted to play football.
I started with a local grassroots team. I got rapidly promoted and I was soon training with the big boys. I had talent. I have no doubt about how talented I was as a kid. I never took to thuggery. I knew I could do a lot from playing football. My father, a clergyman, was special. He encouraged me and prayed for me. My mother who had always known Jesus had nothing but prayers for me. She supported me whenever I needed a helping hand.
The older I grew, the better I became in many ways.
I soon left the grassroots and had my first feel of real competitive football. It was at Union Bank FC. They gave me my first bow. It felt as though I was meant to work in the bank. I also represented First Bank, in the old Pro-League. I was a fantastic midfielder. At least I believed I was.
My family understood my reality, they knew my dream and accepted my passion. Like every kid, they wanted me to be educated. I chose this path myself. Football was the education I wanted.
Football brings memories. It’s beautiful in every way. It was a memorable day. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day. It was in a Cup final during my time at Union Bank. We played a penalty shootout and lost 18-17. Yes! 18-17. Most of us took two penalties each. I took two also – missed one and scored one. After 21 years of football, I don’t think I’ve had a more painful game.
Things got better for me as the years rolled over. I became a league player at Shooting Stars. We were in the professional league under Segun Ogunbote. A very good team, and we had the support from the state government. The people of Ibadan love their team but I was injured for most of the campaign.
Some of us earned as much as N650,000 monthly. For me, that’s good treatment. We eventually got relegated and it was painful.
I was released by the club after the drop. I tried to move abroad and it hardly pulled through.
Did I tell you I was once with the Nigerian Dream Team? I spent one week with the team, with my friend and Shooting Stars teammate, Adewale Ibrahim who later played in Turkey.
I had good teammates at Shooting. Okiki Afolabi, Gbolahan Salami. They were big players.
Later on, I was to go to a popular club in the United Arab Emirates. Kabiru Alausa represented the team, but the deal fell through and my agent fought bitterly with my coach. I don’t know what happened. I was in pain, but I’m a christian, I’m trained to accept my fate.
Sunshine Stars was my next port. I stayed there for months, trained hard but never got minutes. It was not painful. I accepted it. My passion for football is huge. I left after six months, I think.
Since my last attempts at football with Sunshine, I’ve had to train all alone, work hard alone, and dream alone. I’m 31 now. And you know what that means in football. But I still want to play active football.
See! I have no regrets. I love playing. I never have regrets in football. Every chance I have to kick a ball is a dream being lived. You can see how joyful I am to be on the pitch.
I have two kids- a boy and a girl. I want them to go to school. If they love football, they must achieve a balance. They must study hard, but me? This is the passion for me. I train for four hours every day. I’ve been fasting, for more than forty days now, and I still train every day. You see my love for training? This is the story behind it.
I used to be a lazy but talented footballer. Football is a lot of work. I met this coach who never stopped waxing lyrical about how good he considered me to be. But he said he had a problem with my training. I was 18, and he constantly shouted that I don’t train enough. He took me through my paces, and I soon loved it. I think most footballers I see don’t like to train.
Ever since my introduction to training, I’ve been cuddling it. It is what stands me out. I’ll never regret shedding a drop of sweat while training to be better. My wife understands when I go everyday, training to be fit.
It’s the same way I don’t regret playing football even if it hasn’t been the best it could be. I didn’t live all of my dreams. But I have no regrets. It’s my passion. Real passion comes with no regrets. With it, every day is a dream alive. Playing football keeps me alive, I don’t have regrets.