By Akinwale Kasali
Six years ago, little or nothing was known about Junior Oluwafemi Ajayi, Super Eagles striker, who made his debut for the national team in the friendly match against Serbia in London last month. The attacking prowess of Ajayi for his Egyptian club side, Al Ahly, caught the eyes of Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, who invited the young lad to be part of last month’s friendlies against Poland and Serbia.
For most soccer enthusiasts, Ajayi’s name became an household name following his impressive performance at the 2015 Under-23 African Championship held in Senegal, in which Nigeria qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics game. Prior to that competition, Ajayi shone like a star at the 2015 All African Games hosted in Brazzaville, Congo, where the Under-23 team coached by Samson Siasia came third. As at this time, Ajayi dorned the jersey of Shooting Stars Football Club of Ibadan, after parting ways with Union Bank Football Club.
Though, Ajayi has become the ‘beautiful bride’ in the Egyptian league and also in the Tunisian league where he made his first appearance in northern Africa. But, Ajayi’s name wouldn’t have been heard if not for the tutelage, fatherly care, interest and belief of Stanley Ngorube, the founder of Stan Football Academy in Lagos, who gave Ajayi the platform to showcase his skills after his father’s demise years back.
Ngorube started the football academy 13 years ago single handedly without any financial or moral support from any company or individual, in which over 30 of his players have signed deals with clubs around the world and at the nation’s domestic league.
According to Ngorube, the journey started back then when he was in the university, he had passion and flair for football, and been a footballer also, he felt that discovering young talents and moulding them into future stars was necessary.
“Aside the business angle of it, i decided to go for coaching courses to sharpen my skills and also to be able to impact young talents. This were the reasons i started the soccer academy, and have not regretted this action, because seeing young talents excelling in this profession gives me joy. We have the have the Under-10, 13, 15 and 17”.
The Imo state born Ngorube says the academy has been a able to synergise with clubs both locally and internationally, in which the players go for trials, but the academy has been quiet about this because there was a time it fell prey to fraudulent scouts who deceived them and went away with the academy’s money.
The aspiration of Ngorube is high. He believes that with the support of certain companies who believe in the dream of the academy can key in into the dream to make it a reality.
“I am open to sponsorship from any companies, NGOs that will partner with the academy for our dreams and aspiration to come into fulfilment in earnest. The prospect i have for this team is big, and i am optimistic in the near future that we will get there”.