Thursday, July 14, 2011


It is always revealing when one tries to find out how athletes make it to limelight. In most cases the route is not always easy. The children of the rich are not always involved in the rough road to attain excellence in sports. 

Taye Taiwo Taye Taiwo of Nigeria challenges Lionel Messi of Argentina during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group B match between Argentina and Nigeria at Ellis Park Stadium on June 12, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Taiwo's case was not different. The road was tough for him as a young lad who loved playing football. Incidentally, his mother, who was the bread winner of the family, was a pepper vendor in Agege area of Lagos State. The former Lobi Stars player recalled how he managed to attend some football competitions with his friends at that time. 

He said, "It was not easy at all. The five-a-side street football we played that time meant so much to us. We valued it more than any other thing. We moved from one part of Lagos to the other to play challenging games. Our team was made up of seven players but due to lack of money, only six of us were able to move round at a particular time. It was a tough task. 

"Three of us would sit in the vehicle lapping three others; that was even after begging the conductors to bear with us. Getting money for transport was another big issue 

"Even though my mother sold pepper at Agege and we were poor, my colleagues relied on me to get the money for our trips round Lagos for the games. We call it 'Gba jeun' (Play to eat).

"We were so committed to the games we played as if our lives depended on them. So, I would always go to my mother for assistance.

"She would ask me to stay at the shop to sell while she went round to hawk pepper. It was that difficult. Each time she returned, she would give us transport fare for just three people so we would have to drop a player. 

"Again we had to play well to win so that we could get to the stage of winning some money.
"Apart from the love we had for the game, we were also committed because we realised the difficulty in raising the money for our games." 

The 'sweet mother' that gave Taiwo all the support during his early days in the game died a few years back. It was one of Taiwo's darkest moments. 

He wished the woman had lived long enough to enjoy the fruits of her labour, especially now that football puts food on the table for the entire family. 

Taiwo said, "It was a very sad moment for the whole family but God knows best. I am happy that I showed her so much love when she was alive. 

"She often came to stay with me in France with other members of the family. She was very good to us all. I called her Sweet Mother. She was my rock and I owe everything I've achieved to her because God used her to bless me and the entire family. 

"We are six in the family and I am the fourth. One of my bothers, Azeez, is staying with me in France. I might leave him there now that I am moving to Italy. But if he wants to follow me I will take him along." 

Towards the end of last season, Taiwo signed for Italian giants AC Milan. It was a move many had expected would occur way back because the former Marseille player had been linked to Spanish giants, Real Madrid; Portuguese outfit Benfica; and clubs in the English Premier League. 

His love for taking free-kicks has been there since his early days. It is because he loves taking shots.
"As a small boy, I always wanted to hit the ball hard to beat a goalkeeper. So I practised a lot to get the target. Even now, I spend time to perfect my kicks. It is a special talent, especially when fans and colleagues look up to you to make things happen with a free-kick," he said. 

Taiwo revealed that the Milan move was crucial in his career. He said he took his time to weigh the options available to him while also working hard for Marseille towards the end of the season.
He said, "My agent was doing all the job. I think that is how it should be because it was important for me to concentrate on Marseille's success. 

"I must confess it was a difficult time for me to take a decision. I was very close to signing for Benfica. They were always calling me and they also came to meet me in France. I gave them a condition to sell their left back player who is a Portuguese because I will not like to sit on the bench. They promised to do so but they did not show any commitment to do it. 

"But when I came to Nigeria for a match, AC Milan representatives called my mobile number in France and they spoke with my brother. When he delivered the message, I couldn't believe it. 

"Just a week after, the President of AC Milan, Silvio Berlusconi, called me himself and told me of the club's intention to have me in the team.
"I felt so honoured that the president himself called me. At that point, I didn't look back because Milan are a big team. 

"I am very happy with the move because my patience actually paid off."
The move to Milan confirms Taiwo as one of the top players in the Eagles. It was the first time in over five years that a Nigerian player would be moving to a big club. 

For now, only Taiwo and Mikel Obi of Chelsea can be regarded as the two Nigerians in top European teams.
Taiwo's expectations in Milan are huge. He is going to adapt to another league, the Serie A. He also has to get used to the team's style and the big challenge will be language. 

The defender acknowledged the challenges before him while making his final decision on Milan.
He said, "No doubt, it will be tough but as a professional player, one has to face the challenges. It is one of those things in the game. When I moved to France, I had similar problem but now I speak French.
"My friend, Obafemi Martins, has been talking to me. He is already teaching me Italian. 

"I also know that the standard and style of play will pose challenges but I can cope with all of that. Language is very important and at the end of the day, it will be a plus for me as a person. 

"Playing with the likes of Robinho, Seedorf, Inzaghi and others is a big thing and I intend to grab the chance with both hands." 

On the chances of the Eagles attaining the expected standard at continental and global events, Taiwo said the new coaching crew would need time to blend the team. 

"We are all eager to get results for Nigeria but the team is undergoing transformation and as we move on we have to win games. It is not easy but we are going to put in our best to make it to the next Nations Cup which is the major issue for now," he said. 

"We are facing a difficult situation but we are going to work hard to get the expected results for Nigerians," Taiwo added. 

Taiwo left Marseille with a parting gift. He scored the only goal in the French Cup final for his team with a powerful low drive in the 18-yard box. 

"We were looking for the goal and when the ball came towards my right, I decided to hit it hard. It went in and I was so excited because that was a great way of saying goodbye to my colleagues and the fans," he said. 

When asked to rate the European leagues, Taiwo said it was tough for him to do so since he was more used to France in the past five years.

"I cannot rate the leagues but I know French League is strong and interesting. English and Spanish leagues are highly rated because they do well on television. People are exposed to the two leagues and so they appreciate these more than other leagues in Europe," he said. 

It is not all football for Taiwo as he admitted playing table tennis is his best way of relaxing.
"Any opportunity I have, I play table tennis. I love the sport and I enjoy it when I am not playing football," he stressed. 



  1. waoh, before you envy anyone's story, read their story

  2. Omo but the guy ugly sha, but i fit sleep with am close my eyes and collect money....wicked laff

  3. One can talk about what he has gone through only when theres some success to show for it

  4. Rooooonie this story is one of the best that ive read on your blog: welldone and kudos!

    I have learnt from this guys experience

  5. hmmmmm educating indeed.....what wil be will be....congratulation taye taiwo im a big fan

  6. Ronnie are you married?

  7. Taye Taiwo to me is a hero and will remain a hero.
    he is strong at the back unlike that jelly fish Danny Shittu.

    He is as good as Taribo West

  8. baba ibeji, Oko Selimotu aya taiwo mo ki kie o

  9. Taye baba ibeji, Oko selimotu aya taiwo, mo kie kie o


  11. Pepper money as in Ata....waoh....lesson #1 never look down on anyone cos anybody can be somebody

    @sportdiva kudos



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