Eye for the Spectacular
“Zidane, I love Zidane, He made me love football, those goals, the way he plays…”
The fans chant relentlessly as Enyimba go for broke, the People’s Elephant pressing and pursuing the ball like wild dogs hunting its prey, then it happens, the ball is won in midfield and the player surges forward, two steps with no hindrance, he lines up a thunderbolt that has even the biggest critics dumbfounded. The commentator loses his voice in adulation.
This is ethereal. For the man, not so much, just like his idol Zinedine Zidane, Austin Oladapo has a map of the pitch in his head, and he knows exactly when and where to shoot.
He has done it so many times and he will keep doing it. The Doctors need to take a sample of what is in that left boot, generations need that Midas touch.
“My mother says I was the blessing that took the pressure off her because everyone was asking her for a boy. It wasn’t easy, but I came forth. That was all that mattered.”
Born on August 27, Austin Oladapo is the fourth of five children and the only male. In a time when emphasis on the Male child as a symbol of the family identity was at its crescendo, Austin’s arrival would change the lives of his family forever.
He recounts been treated like his sisters with no room for special preferences in their house.
“In My family, we do everything together. We went through hell together, we enjoy together, because we are Stronger Together.”
Devout Christians, Oladapo’s upbringing reflects in his interactions as well as his pre-match rituals, putting every game into God’s hands. He does this because he knows his family do the same every game, even though they weren’t initially convinced on his football decision.
“They only began to support my career after they saw how much football meant to me.”
Gold and Privilege
“Football gave me a lot of privileges in secondary school because of the trophy I won.”
A proven winner, Oladapo’s first taste of success was in secondary school, winning the “Shell Cup” in Nasarawa State.
That victory would earn him not just a trophy and a medal, but popularity and privileges in his school, Government College, Nasarawa, a boarding facility. He was the national treasure.
Talent isn’t Enough
“I realized talent wasn’t enough when I got there, I had to work very hard, because there were boys ready to take your place in a heartbeat.”
After college, he would trial at the Pepsi Football Academy, where he turned back after seeing the massive crowd.Police Machine, where he would spend the better part of two years was where he finally realized that talent existed everywhere regardless of the numbers and if he didn’t work hard, his dreams would be in jeopardy.
Aspire and Acquire
“I know football is life, it is why I want to play at the highest level possible.”
A winner of the Nigerian Professional Football League and a veteran of three continental tournaments, Oladapo believes the journey is still ahead.
A CHAN silver medal, acquired in 2018 as part of Nigeria’s Home-Based Eagles team to Morocco lay in his collection. He wants the AFCON Gold medal next.
That aspiration stems from within, during his early forays into football at the Aspire Academy in Abuja.
“I was the only one selected of 500 to represent Abuja in Lagos at the Aspire trials, then I got to Lagos and made the gifted 50, at that point, there was no turning back.”
“I trialed twice in Europe as a teenager, both moves complicated by details”
A man has gifted as Austin should be in Europe. Twice the door closed due to technicalities he himself can’t explain in Poland and Finland.
Down, not out, His return home to launch his career would see him go through Tip FC, Court of Appeal, Road Safety, FCIU, Kwara United, Gombe United (where he bagged 9 goals) before moving to Enyimba FC, where he is part of the best midfield trio in the league.
However, like every trident, they are looking for more, and for Austin, singled out as the best of the bunch, the glory beckons.