What would you say to a chance to meet real-life football heroes?
For fans of the beautiful game, the answer is a no-brainer.
That’s why Nigerian teen Ogwu Ekenedilichukwu Benedict is keen to make it to a football camp in Munich Germany, where football fans from around the world will get the chance to meet the stars of Bayern Munich.
It will be a dream come true if he makes it to the Allianz Junior Football Camp Hong Kong selection program in which he is a candidate for the six-day training camp.
Ben’s first loyalty is to the Super Eagles, the Nigerian national football team which is one of the best in Africa, then to Manchester United and Chelsea as a fan of the English Premier League.
But his love for the sport has no favorites, although like most teens, he has his own heroes — Manchester’s Wayne Rooney and Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Okocha.
Since age five, he has dreamed of becoming a professional football player himself.
“I often played football with my elder brother,” he says. “Back then, we had plenty of time after school in Nigeria. We would play football in the streets but I don’t remember a lot about those days.”
In 2009, Ben moved with his family to Hong Kong after fleeing unrest in Nigeria. They plan to live here permanently because they no longer feel safe in their own country.
Ben plays football for Delia Memorial School (Hip Wo) where he earned his spurs to win nomination to the Allianz program.
It could be his biggest break and he seems equipped to meet the challenge.
Ben has a lot of respect for teamwork and team spirit and takes setbacks in stride and a chance to learn.
That comes from having to balance schoolwork with football and having to deal with the pressures of being the youngest child in the family.
“My mother wouldn’t allow me to go out after class. I had to go home unless I had a competition or a training session,” he says.
“She has some opinions about me playing football and she often talks to my father about not letting me become a football player.”
Ben learned to adapt.
“I spend three hours doing homework and revisions every day,” he says, adding football improves his concentration and brings positive energy.
While determined to become a pro, Ben knows it’s not easy, so coaching appeals to him as an alternative, but playing for Nigeria in the World Cup would be a thrill of a lifetime.
Still, he might change his plans if he can continue to play football in Hong Kong.
At 14, he has a lot of time to think about it while he settles into his new home.
Ben says it has been a pleasant experience not being self-conscious about his ethnicity.
“When I first came to Hong Kong, no one would play football with me. Now everyone accepts me and I’m no longer an outcast.”
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 12.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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