By John Egbokhan
Standing at an imposing 1.90m in height, Leon Balogun naturally fits into the traditional football defender, the no-nonsense, tough-tackling, leg-breaking, even though he is yet to break anyone’s legs and mean-looking, despite having an easy on the eyes appeal player, who does his defensive duties effortlessly.
The Mainz centre-back, who first burst into the Nigerian football scene in March 2014, during an international friendly match against Mexico, coming in as a substitute for former captain Joseph Yobo, has wormed his way into the hearts of Super Eagles fans, with his impeccable performance in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.
Originally born in Berlin, Germany to a German mother and a Nigerian father, the towering 29 year old, who started his Bundesliga adventure on 19 April, 2009 for German side, Hannover, would have joined the swelling ranks of African stars born in Germany, like Jerome Boateng and David Alaba, who rather than stick up for their father’s countries, chose to play for European nations.
In Balogun’s case, who was torn between playing for either Germany or Nigeria, the choice for the African nation, was never in doubt as he craved connection with the ancestral home of his father and in retrospect, it seems that his decision has paid off, following the qualification of the Super Eagles for next summer’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia. It came following 1-0 victory over Zambia at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom, a week ago.
And speaking in an interview with Sports Vanguard, Balogun has said his late paternal grandmother would be weeping in heaven, in celebration of his landmark feat with the Super Eagles.
‘’I can’t describe how I feel. It is unbelievable. It’s probably going to my first and only World Cup, so I still need time to realise that I am going to play with the best players in the world. I need time to realise what this means.
‘’Before the game against Zambia, I thought about my Nigerian grandmother, who I never got to see, as she has passed on but was told of the love she had for me and the other grand children I thought about what this World Cup ticket would have meant to her were she to be alive and the answer I got from my mind is that she would be weeping and overcome with emotions in the afterlife’’, added Balogun.
The fair-skinned defender dedicated the World Cup ticket to his late grandmother, adding that, “I also dedicate it to my father and other family members who supported me throughout this journey’’.
Balogun said the qualification was made sweeter as it was achieved against a very tough and good Chipolopolo side.
‘’The victory is sweet because it was achieved against an amazing Zambian side, who gave us a good run for the ticket. Other teams that we played against do not have the technical depth of the Zambians. They have a complete team inside out. They kept coming at us from all sides of the field. It was very difficult containing them.
‘’Their wingers were very quick and skilful. They are a unit. They play for each other. They gave us a tough time throughout the game. They are a team for the future. They would have qualified if they were in another group’’, added Balogun.
He said that the Super Eagles will not be making up the numbers at the 2018 FIFA World, noting that “we are going to be competing for glory against the best in the world as the World Cup, not to make up the numbers. We have shown our determination in this qualifying campaign and are sure that it the world will see the stuff we are made of in Russia’’.