As Nigeria qualified for the FIFA World Cup holding in Russia next year, one of the most conspicuous faces on the team is Leon-Aderemi Balogun, one half of the ‘Oyinbo Wall’ that has manned the Super Eagles‘ defence. Football fans nicknamed he and William Troost-Ekong who play that position on the team.
The patriotic Super Eagles defender has been lauded for his performance during the Eagles’ recent match against Zambia. The 29 year old helped Nigeria secure their spot in The World Cup in Russia with their 1-0 victory.
Leon is an unlikely hero: he could very well have been playing for the German national team. Born in Berlin to a Nigerian father and German mother on June 28 1988, Leon started his career as a youth player at Hertha BSC and qualified to play for the national team.
However the pull of his fatherland was strong. At a time that there was a dearth of defenders in the team after the retirement of Joseph Yobo, he was contacted by the late teach coach, Stephen Keshi and he got his first invitation to play in 2014. He had not even been to Nigeria before then.
‘I have never played for Germany since I started playing football. I think it’s just some commitment that I prefer playing for Nigeria. I don’t know what it is but I can tell you, I never really thought of playing for Germany.’
‘When I was younger, I always created myself in those video games and I always put myself in the Nigerian national team. So, it’s like a dream come true. I am very proud and happy and this overcomes the stupid injury I had on my debut,’ he said in a 2014 interview.
He overcame that injury and has been a constant feature in the Eagle’s triumphant side that qualified for the world cup without losing a game.
Like a true Nigerian, he also waded into the food battles his country is famous for. ‘I know fufu, my father eats it all the time; I ate a lot of it. Since I’m not living with my parents anymore, I don’t eat it as much but of course I know fufu and I love it as well.’ He then fired a shot at Ghana telling them Nigerian jollof is better.
Sadly, he doesn’t speak any Nigerian language- at least not yet. ‘My father wanted to teach me when I was a kid but he was afraid that I might have problems with the German language. Because of racism, he was just afraid. He had a bad experience in Germany, so he thought it might be better if I just focused on learning German and a little bit of English from time to time and that’s okay.’
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