Story of Nigerian young talent Taofeek Adigun Salami
homepage. It is in Danish and I am Swedish but will try to
translate it to English so please have some understanding if there
are some grammar and spelling faults in this text. I don't have a
spell check and am just human (thx to Vera it might be ok though, thank you Älskling).
It is written by Tipsbladetsjournalist, Morten Glinvad and I have not asked for permission but hope it is OK, so, I will spread his words to you guys. This is the first article out of two.
Name of this story is Den Afrikanske dröm (The African Dream)
The story of Taofeek Adigun Salami is the story of a boy with a strong will, that came through the African needle eye. Salami got picked out and traveled to at 16 to follow his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Part 1: The one being picked
There is nothing to do. He's been discovered. "Why did you not attend the class this afternoon?" Taofeek's dad asks angrily. Taofeek knows it is impossible to get away from a punishment. He just hopes, his dad won't find a stick and hit him with it, as sometimes he and his mum does, when Taofeek does something bad. Taofeek's dad has seen some of the other boys from afternoon class and asked for his son. The boys had no choice but to tell, that Taofeek hadn't been to today's class. When his father asked him where he had been, "I've been playing football," says Taofeek, but knows very well it's an unacceptable excuse in his father's mind. "You shall attend school," says the father, tiresome, it's not the first time he had heard that. "But dad I don't want to go to school. I much rather play football,". Taofeek tried, but there was no use. The father decides the punishment, and the following week, the Salami Family's youngest son is doing the dishes. It's certainly not the first time, Taofeek cut afternoon classes. Not that the young Nigerian lad didn't care about going to school, because he did. But he thought, that it was too much to go to two schools. When the regular Morning school finished at noon, he had just a few hours break until afternoon school started. That was all too much, and meant, he would almost never have time to play football. And football filled much of his boyhood dreams. When Taofeek was 11 years old his brothers and some of their friends brought him to the final in the African championship. Surelere Stadium was more than full, when played . Taofeek could not understand how important that game was for , but he could see, how mad his brother was, when lost the game after a penalty shootout. That time Taofeek's favorite player was Sunday Oliseh. Taofeek knew that Oliseh for many years,had been a professional football player in . But he was not aware that Sunday had an older brother by the name of Churchill Oliseh. Together with his family Taofeek lives in a small House in a busy neighborhood in a central part of . Parents Lateef and Adiat lives in one room and the kids in another. They had limited space but the family was doing good. Lateef sells spare parts for cars and Adiat has a small shop by the street, where she sells milk, cornflakes and fruit to people living in the neighbourhood. Taofeek is the youngest of Lateef and Adiats 6 kids, like his older brothers and sisters he was supposed to go to afternoon classes to be better and and one day get a university degree. But in this little boy's head it's not about degree or university. He wants to be a professional football player in , and while he is paying off his punishment with pots and pans in front of him, he is thinking that when he is old enough he will play football every afternoon. Whether his father wants it or not. Taofeek knows it's an important game , he is playing. The team he is playing is FC Ebedei, and Taofeek knows about them very well. He had some friends playing for them and they told him that if one plays for this club there is a good chance to end up in . It is a club with good reputation and have produced and exported many young talented Nigerian players to . "If I can play good against Ebedei, I might soon be playing for them", Taofeek thinks a few days before the game. He starts focusing and locks everything else out. The piercing and determined look in his brown eyes are pointed towards the game.
Taofeeek has started playing football for real with referees and coaches and on real football Fields. it's not like before when he played in the streets or the park with a couple of trees as goal posts. On the day of a big game Taofeek had to sneak out,cos his parents would never allow him out to play against Ebedei. Their home ground is all the way in the suburb of Shagamu, and its a long way away from the Salami-family's home in the center of town. Before the game starts Taofeek notices a man, who talked with the Ebedei players. He was not like the others. It was easy to see that he was not going to play in the game. He has a shirt on and a aura of authority around him. When he speaks, the Ebedei boys listened. It has to be him, that is Churchill Oliseh, Taofeek thinks to himself. Taofeek have heard from some friends that the brother of earlier Nigerian national player Sunday Oliseh is the boss of FC Ebedei, But Taofeek have never seen him before. When the game starts Taofeek runs and plays the best he can. there is not much grass on the field and sometimes it's hard to calculate the bounce of the ball on the muddy surface. After the game Taofeek's coach calls him aside, he tells Taofeek that Churchill Oliseh would like to have a word with him. With a tense body the 14 year old boy goes to see the Ebedie boss. Churchill says hi. "I would like it if you came to play for us tomorrow and the next week. Maybe you could get a chance to play for us," he says. It is the chance Taofeek had been dreaming of. He hurries home and finds his mum. He had always been able to talk to her in confidence. He almost forgets he had sneaked out to play the game without permission. Full of excitement he tells his mum that Churchill Oliseh asked him to play for FC Ebedei. But his mum had never heard of any Churchill. "Maybe you will be allowed to play there but you have to wait to see what your dad says," she says. Taofeek knows its the father that makes all the decisions in the house. And Lateef Salami probably won't like the idea that his 14 year old son will leave the family. Because if Taofeek are going to play for Ebedei it would mean he will have to move to the clubs Acedemi close to the field in Shagam. "He is much too young," says Lateef, but the mother speaks supportive about Taofeeks cause. They talks about the opportunity Ebedei will be for him on going to be a professional football player, and in the end the father give in. The next morning Taofeek takes the bus for Shagam to practice with FC Ebedei.
One of the coach in Ebedei have always liked Taofeek. He treats the boy almost as if it was his own son. And one day the coach lets Taofeek in on a secret. "I have heard that the Europeans will be here next week, just so you know," he says. Taofeek now live on FC Ebedeis Akademy in Shgam. He is one of the younger boys that have been chosen to play for the club, and he is happy that the coach helps him out. If there is anything he just turns to the coach. Having the coach is a big help since he can only see his family once a week at the most and he cant call them since they don't have a phone. Taofeek is glad the coach told him about the Danish visit to Shagam. It will give him time to focus and menatly prepare to do his best. He is determent to seize the opportunity and be chosen to go to Denmark. A few days later twp Danish men enters Churchill Oliseh's car in front of the Sheraton Hotel close to Lagos international airport. One of them is FC Midtjyllands sports director Jens Örgaad and the other is Claus Steinlein the director of Midjyllands Football Academy. Churchill and his danish partners always leaves in good time, since in the chaotic traffic in Lagos you never know if the trip to Shagam will take one or two hours. Even that Churchill usually are well informed on traffic stocks it still happens sometimes they get stuck. Jens Örgaard have been to Africa several times and have learn a few things in the difference in culture and how to act and not to act. Still Lagos overwhelms him and he will maybe never really get used to it. Jens travels to Lagos about three-four times a year , it was him who started the partnership with FC Ebedei to be able to bring Nigerian talented players to study and play football in Denmark. Earlier FC Midjylland had a partner club in Ghana, but Jens Örgaard decided to move the activity's to Nigeria. Since in Lagos itself, the biggest city in Africa FC Midjylland would have a population of more than 15 million to hand pick talents. And to add to that there is the rest of this grand country that Churchill and his team search for promising football players. This is a market that would make any European talent scout drooling. However FC Midtjyllan is almost alone to search for unfinished diamonds in Nigeria. Because in Europe the general view is that the costs are to great to enter the Nigerian market for players. Lagos and Nigeria is simply too dangerous. Jens Örgaard have seen a bit to in his visits to Nigeria. He seen dead bodies on the side of the road, been pushed out of his car just to stare into the barrel of a machine gun. Once Jens were in Lagos for 14 days straight and in the end he just locked him self in his hotel room. Now Jens and Claus will only be in Lagos for 3-4 days. Every day Churchill drives them to Shagam to watch the Ebedei team practice and chose a possible promising Nigerian boy to take to Denmark and the FC Midjylland football academy. A little late the three men leaves the comfort of the air conditioned car. It's still morning but the humid sub tropic air touch them straight away as they leave the car. Claus Steinlein has to take his glasses off. It's more calm in Shagam than in Lagos but for the two Danes the conditions are still extreme. For the next few hours Jens and Claus are going to study the skills of the Nigerian boys.
Taofeek is wondering. He is walking todays practise but the Danes are not there. He wonders if his coach missunderstood something or if something have happen since they are not here. The thoughts spins around in his head and it hard to keep focus when practise starts. Then suddenly some minutes into practise they are showing up. Taofeek recognize one of the men, it's him it's the boss. The other man he never seen. That man walks over to th oposit side where only a wall keeps the bush outside. It's Claus Steinlein who starts video taping the practice. Next to Churchill Jens Örgaard stands and checks out Taofeek and the other boys. Now is the time, Taofeek thinks. it's about being focused so I can be picked. It's about to take this chance. Everyone have now noticed that the Danes are there and the mood changes. Even if the boys not have been told by words (well all of them) why the white mens are there they still all know they are here to find a player. On the sideline Jens is following every movement . the many trips he have done have give him some insight about the Nigerians. He knows how tough these players are. It's how they are raised, he thinks. There is a great pride deep down in them. By every day Jens goes to practise together with Claus he narrows down kandidates in his mind. Some of the boys impress while some other don't and on the last day there are just five or six players that are in his mind. After the third days practice Taofeek and the other boys get the order to gather on the pitch. Taofeek knows its now the decition will be. It's now he will know if he will be picked. Quietly Tafeek sits looking down and listens respectfully to the European man. He talks about how they been playing what they have done good and done wrong. Taofeek can see that the man has a piece of paper in his hand and suddenly Jens Örgaard turns his eyes on the paper and read up three numbers. One of the numbers are number 14. Taofeeks number. "You have been choosen" say's Örgaard. Taofeek says nothing, his Afrikan mind tells him to stay calm but inside he is about to explode of excitment. He has been choosen! He will go to Europe to play football. His dream have come true.
Taofeek feels bad inside, He stands next with his mother and two of his brothers infront of the entrence of Lagos International airport. The mother Adiat is crying and it's almost impossible for Taofeek to say goodbye. He have had good time to prepare for the farwell during the three month that have passed since he was chosen. He have been thinking much about what it will look like in this country he is going to live in. His parents was very surprised the day he came home and told them he was chosen to go to Europe. They were well aware of the possibilitys for him when he played for Ebedei. But they could never imagine he would be cosen in such a young age. He had not even turn 16 by that time 2004. In Taofeeks mind there are no doubt that he wants to go to Denmark. He had always seen himself going to Europe to play football and now he had his parents support. But as he stands infront of his crying mother it's still feels hard. On the outside he keeps a straight face but inside he is crying and can't get a single word out. He have never been in an airplane and he never been outside Nigeria. And there will pass many month before he will see his family again. Finally Taofeek has to go not to miss the flight. He tells him self how lucky he is to have got this chance that few other have had. Lawal and Akeem the two other buys being chosen are with him and also churchill will go with them to Denmark. Taofeek knows they will first do a stop in Ghana and then in Milano Italy. In Ghana Taofeek's eyes goes wide open when he recognize one of the entering passangers. It is the French-Ghanian Marcel Desailly that just a few month earlier ended his football career. Taofeek knows that Desailly's last club was Chelsea in England, but have no idea that that club will play an important role later in his life.
END PART ONE.
Part one is based on interviews with Taofeek Salami him self, Jens Örgaard and Claus