New signing at Brighton Hove Albion o England, Leon Aderemi Balogun has revealed that the death of his grandmother in Nigeria inspired him to accept a switch in allegiance from Germany and play for the Super Eagles.
Though he was only 16 years at that time and had never been to Nigeria, Balogun says he developed an emotional attachment for the nation, based on thoughts he had about how his grandmother had been living in the country of his father’s birth.
Balogun narrated at length: “I hadn’t thought about my grandma that much since she passed when I was 16 years old. But, this lady was right.
“My grandma’s death had a huge effect on me, and I had never even met my grandma, who lived in Nigeria. That’s the part that was wild to me.
“My sister didn’t know anything about my reaction to grandma’s passing. This woman, though, she saw it.
“She told me I had to heal my soul, my heart, before I could become the player I wanted to be. After we left, I didn’t completely understand if my experience with her was successful.
“The most important thing that came out of that day was that it got me thinking about my grandma. When I got home, my mind went straight back to the day my dad told me the news.
“Because I had never met her, my dad didn’t tell me right when it happened. He actually waited a few days — that’s how distant my relationship was from her. She only spoke Yoruba.
“So when we talked on the phone when I was little, my dad would try to translate for us. He had never taken me to Nigeria, for reasons he didn’t make clear to me, and I only ever saw photos of my grandma.
“When my dad told me, he pulled me aside in our home. I have this vivid memory of the feeling — like, this terrible, terrible feeling of sadness. I crawled up the stairs, sobbing my eyes out. I cried for an hour.
“My mom had to come to my room and ask me what was wrong … she couldn’t understand why I was so sad, either.
“I think, what I knew at a young age was that my grandma represented a part of my life that I didn’t completely understand. I was mixed race.
“My mom was a German, my dad Nigerian. I was different than the other kids. And I knew that my grandma, and Nigeria, had a lot do with it.”