Just a few years ago, Sunday Falaye was playing in the Apapa Zone of the Lagos State Principals’ Cup for secondary schools but now he is banging in goals in his first season in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
When Shooting Stars signed inside forward, Falaye from Freetown Academy in the off-season, little did they know they had just acquired a Neymar-esque player.
Nineteen games into the season he has five goals to his name and four assists, huge for a player who is having his first taste of the big pie.
He told npfl.ng that he could have been in the university studying law if not that football has taken him away from schooling.
An academic beginning
If Faleye was not playing football today, he would have probably still been in school, maybe studying for a degree in law.
“I have been playing football since I was four years old,” the 18-year-old Faleye said.
“But when I got into secondary school I was playing in inter-class matches, then inter-house sports before I played in the Principals’ Cup in 2011,” Faleye told npfl.ng.
“When I was in school I engaged myself in academic work but when football came, I grabbed the opportunity too.”
Falaye narrated how playing in the Principals’ Cup shot him to near stardom, a chance he did not let pass him by.
“In 2011, while a student of Awodi Ora Junior Secondary School, I played in the Principals’ Cup though my school did not qualify for the later stages, I did enough at the Apapa zone to catch the attention of people,” Faleye said.
“If not for football, I will still be in school right now but with football, I have not given up on schooling. I plan to go back to school when my career is over or if it is possible to combine both I am up to it.”
He continued that he cannot in any way compare the top tier of the Nigerian League to the amateur ranks.
“I cannot in any way compare both leagues as the NPFL is clearly better than what I experienced as an amateur player in the academy,” Falaye said.
“There is a very big difference between amateur football and the NPFL and that is what I have experienced in the last few months.”
After five goals and four assists this season, he is clearly the top scorer for the Ibadan based Shooting Stars and he described his style as Neymar-esque.
“If I want to describe myself, I will say I play like Neymar. If you look at Neymar, you have seen me play.
“Whatever Neymar can do, I can do it. It is just unfortunate that I am yet to score with my head this season. My five goals have been three from my left leg and two from my right,” Faleye told npfl.ng.
“I am not getting carried away with the goals I have scored but I wish I can finish among the top five scorers in the league.”
Eyes on the greens
Like most other players, Faleye wants to play for the national teams saying it is the next important thing for players.
“After making your first appearance as a professional footballer and playing regularly for your club, the next important thing is to play for your national team at whatever level you are eligible for.
“I also want a crack at the national teams too because that is what we are all after. I would have said I have done enough to get a national team call up but when I look at the position of Shooting Stars on the log I begin to think other wise.
“Maybe I have done my best but my best is not good enough because if I have really done that well, then my club would be in the top 4 and not bottom 4,” Faleye lamented.
A message to the school kids
After his move from school football to the professional ranks, Faleye believes there are many more like him in schools all over the country.
“My advise to them would simply be that they should stay focused on football as a career but should also give their education a fifty percent chance too.
“You can never tell what life has in store for you and football may eventually not work so they must have a fall back plan which can well be education.
“If they have a mind to play football, let them go for it,” Faleye said.
The 18-year-old Faleye is no doubt enjoying his first ever season in the professional ranks and believes there are many more to come in his fledgling career.
By China Acheru