Jaguar – I just want to make this clear to you

I am already living my dream. This is how I feel. Not because I’m playing abroad but because I dreamt of playing pro football. My dream wasn’t traveling out, my dream was pro football, not just a ‘better’ life. 
I just want to make this clear to you. 

A lot of people say they want to be pro footballers but deep down in their subconscious, all they want is a better life. Some of them don’t even realise that this is actually what they crave. That’s why you see many players don’t want to play football in Enyimba, they would rather apply for a degree abroad and play college football or look for something that will give them money. 

As for me, I would pick playing for Remo in the NPFL (Nigeria Professional Football League) over traveling out and living a good life doing something else. 

I have always wanted to be a star right from childhood. I used to play football alone outside my house until late in the evenings. I’d be dribbling thin air and scoring imaginary winning goals in front of an imaginary crowd…then I would run off celebrating, taking my shirt off and waving it. 

I have wanted to be a professional footballer since childhood, but then it was just a dream until I  was in JSS3 when I KNEW I was going to be a pro footballer. 

Back in Nigerian Navy Secondary School Calabar, we played in the Shell Cup, and on this particular day, I was benched by Mr. Tayo. He put me on the bench because I was too small according to him, and my teammates protested because they knew I was the best player on the team. We ended up losing by eight or nine goals and that was the day I decided that I must become a professional footballer. 

I even promised a friend of mine that he would one day watch me on TV and tell his kids “I went to school with that guy”. I’ve held up my end of the bargain but he doesn’t have kids yet haha. 

I decided to do this because I have never gone anywhere to play football without being a standout performer. I can’t brag about the same in any other art or profession so I didn’t need any other sign to show that I was made for soccer and I’ve never thought about giving up; not even once.

After secondary school, I had to go to University because even though my parents had always been supportive of my soccer, they always prioritized me getting a degree and I had a deal with my dad that once I got a degree, he would let me play pro football. He agreed and I finally got the degree but sadly he wasn’t there to witness it. I lost him one week before my final exams, before earning my degree in Law from Unilag. 

As I got older, I began to see a lot of my childhood mentors in my area who all had dreams of playing pro football… they had all given up and started office jobs or hustling something else, I still couldn’t give up because anytime I meet my friends who haven’t seen me in a while, all they ask is  “Junior how far, you still dey ball? ” …..and I promised myself that I will NEVER tell them NO because trust me, man, I know a lot of my mentors that I’ve asked if they still ball and they tell me NO….bro it’s heartbreaking…so, I swore that will never be me. 

Going to Hong Kong didn’t happen as suddenly as most people think. There was interest for a long time and there were other offers as well, but I needed to evaluate carefully because of the Coronavirus epidemic and my agent advised me to go to Hong Kong because they had a much better Covid situation than most countries. 

Since I’ve gotten here there have been absolutely no regrets so far because I’ve learned a lot about mingling and staying in a foreign land in a less pressured environment than if I had gone to Europe. 

One would expect that there would be a huge gulf in training methods, but that hasn’t been the case at all. The only thing is that my individual training is less intense here…and I don’t work so much because the season is on but as for the team training, it’s nothing quite different from my training in Remo stars because I was opportune to work with coach Daniel Ogunmodede. For me, he’s the most sound coach in Nigeria. Coach Dan is a tactical monster. Listen, if anyone wants to travel out, I will advise you to work with him no matter how short, he will sharpen you. He’s a king. 

The People of Happy Valley and Hong Kong have been so receptive and loving and I love them too. I’m settling in well and have even started learning a little Cantonese, although I’m not sure you can print most of the words I’ve learned so far if you know what I mean. 

The Club has been amazing and I have a great relationship with the staff. Do you know that when they saw the love I was getting from Nigerians on Twitter, they had to open a Twitter account for the club? They didn’t have one before I signed for them. It was great to see all the love from my people and how my reputation here was improved by it. To my Naija people, if you’re reading this and I’m sure you are, thank you for your aggressive support. I love una dieeeee… Your boy isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

I think one of my biggest blessings in life has been my friends, from having Rasak here with me in Honk Kong to my guys in Nigeria. Having guys like these is Priceless. With friends like the ones I have, you don’t have to think too much before making decisions. You always know you’re covered and that’s life for you- decision making. Like the decision to start calling myself Jaguar, I had two names on my mind, I just wanted a unique name that depicts my on-pitch game style and it was either Tarzan or Jaguar. So I confided in my friend Ezu and asked him which one he preferred for me. And he loved Jaguar, so Jaguar it was. 

To me, I’m currently in the middle of living out my dream. I feel glad that I can come to a foreign place and still be able to perform. I appreciate and enjoy my present but that doesn’t mean this is my final form, there’s still a lot to do. It’s like a journey and I’ve learned a lot of lessons on this journey and I’ll share some with you. So if there’s anything you remember from reading this story, let it be this; work hard, work smart, and pray. Be ready to leave your comfort zone or it’s almost impossible, and never stop believing. Keep very key close friends. You will need them.

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