Some say football is a religion in Nigeria, because of the passion people have for the game. Today the love of football is developed very early in young ones. Their passion for football is often on display in street corners and schools where they look for any available open space to play the game.
Many youths in Nigeria come from poor backgrounds, and as such their parents often have to make sacrifices to find the money to afford boots and other essentials such as footballs and jerseys.
Nigeria’s elite professional footballers like Kanu Nwankwo, Austin ‘Jayjay’ Okocha, Odion Ighalo, and Kelechi Iheanacho began their early footballing careers, playing under similar conditions on the streets of Nigeria and in their schools. These international stars fought through these streets and made it to the international and global scene of football.
The streets and schools in Nigeria where youths play football under less than ideal conditions, have over time built a reputation of being great grounds for the discovery of raw talents by foreign and local scouts on the lookout for young raw talents. Many young ones have risen to play professional football for local and international football clubs as well as the senior and junior national teams.
Despite the daunting challenges facing young stars, they still go back to the streets daily to sharpen and horn their skills hoping to be soon discovered and given the opportunity to showcase their talent to the world on a global stage.
Bleak, rough and rugged, the streets of Nigeria have and will continue to serve as breeding grounds for young football talents and legends.
Story & Pictures: Ihuoma Ukeje