THE BOY WHO DARED TO DREAM

"Gooooaaaalllllllll!", Screams filled the air, with many fists pumping in joy. I jumped up and down a few times, the happiness threatening to burst out of me. Ademola Lookman, the number 18 forward just sealed Nigeria's place in the quarter-finals in the AFCON tournament, handing us a 2-0 win against longtime rivals, Cameroon. One particular Nigerian player stood out during the game. He commanded the ball like it was an extension of himself in fluid, graceful movements, cut through the opponent's defense like a hot knife through butter. His reputation as the "king of goals" precedes him. The most expensive African player of all time with a club-record fee of $92million, according to a reputable Nigerian news outlet. He has achieved international fame and recognition, awarded the 2023 African player of the year award after various exploits at club level. He is none other than Victor Osimhen, bearer of number 9 jersey, Nigeria's golden boy.  His success has eclipsed his traumatic upbringing, marred by poverty and gruelling laborious work. He used to live in a makeshift house near a dumpsite and lost his mother at an early age. His father, saddled with the responsibility of raising and providing for 7 young children lost his job all of a sudden. Throwing the entire family into an unending cycle of hunger, uncertainty, and extreme poverty. He and his siblings had to take on menial jobs and hawking, surviving on daily wages, unsure of when their next meal would be. He risked his life severally while selling sachet water in traffic, often chasing after moving vehicles. In spite of the bleak situation, he didn't give up on his passion, football.  The day he was selected for the 2015 U-17 FIFA world cup marked a turning point for him. He showcased raw talent and led the team to victory, winning the golden boot and silver ball awards for his exemplary performance. He would later win the CAF young player of the year for 2015. It was not all rosy as he experienced some challenges along the way that threatened to bring his budding career to an abrupt halt.  He sustained injuries and had to undergo multiple surgeries with a subsequent decline in his performances. Rejected by clubs that had at first showed keen interest, he refused to be weighed down and continued training. By a stroke of luck and hardwork, he was signed by Sporting Charleroi where his career effectively took off. Currently, he plays for Napoli and earns £10.9million annually. Everytime I come across him on the news, internet or watch him perform magic on the pitch, I am reminded of someone who vehemently refused to let his background impact his life. I am inspired by his goal-getter attitude and cheerful outlook on life generally , in spite of obvious limitations. I think the saying, "you can achieve anything you put your mind to", is cliche but he embodies it in every sense.

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