• Friday, April 19, 2024
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From street hawker to African King- The rise of Victor Osimhen


Born and growing up in Olusosun, a dense community in Lagos that is synonymous with dumpsites, the newly crowned African football king, Victor Osimhen, endured a very tough beginning to rising to become the best football player in the African continent. Here, ANTHONY NLEBEM takes an in-depth account of Osimhen’s journey to stardom.

Career Journey

Osimhen was born on December 29, 1998, and his journey to becoming a professional footballer involved facing various challenges and overcoming obstacles.

One aspect of his story that has been highlighted in some reports is his encounter with football scouts during his youth. Osimhen caught the attention of scouts while playing for the Ultimate Strikers Academy in Lagos. His impressive performances led to opportunities to showcase his talent on bigger stages.

The Super Eagles rose to prominence during the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup held in Chile, where he played a key role in helping the Nigerian national team win the tournament. He finished as the top scorer of the competition, earning the Golden Boot, and was named the tournament’s best player, receiving the Golden Ball.

After his success at the U-17 level, Osimhen’s professional career took off. He initially played for German club VfL Wolfsburg, then moved to Belgian side Charleroi in 2018, where he continued to develop as a striker. His performances at Charleroi attracted the attention of Lille OSC, and he made a transfer to the French club in 2019.

Osimhen began his senior career in Germany at VfL Wolfsburg in 2017. After spending a season and a half with the team, he went on loan to Charleroi in Belgium in 2018/19, before switching to Lique1 side Lille.

The 24-year-old made his European football debut with the French club during the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League. In 2020, Osimhen joined Serie A club Napoli for a club-record fee of €70 million.

He won the Serie A Best Young Player award in the 2021/22 season and, in the following season, helped the club win their first Serie A title in 33 years.


From street hawker to African King

The small tall boy from the streets of Olusosun has become the biggest name in Africa. At the 2023 CAF award night held on Monday night in Marrakech, Morocco, Osimhen was named the 2023 CAF Men’s Player of the Year following his heroic performance for the Super Eagles and Napoli in the year under review and also became the first Nigerian winner of the men’s award since Kanu Nwankwo in 1999 after another prolific campaign

Osimhen beat stiff competition from Morocco and PSG defender Achraf Hakimi and Egypt and Liverpool striker Mohammed Salah to win the top award.

It is a “dream come true” for Osimhen, who was raised in the dusty streets of Olusosun, Lagos, having experienced the harsh realities of childhood.

As a young lad, Osimhen sold newspapers and bottles of water on the streets of Lagos to make a living, describing his situation as being in the trenches

The 24-year-old on Tuesday wrote an emotional piece on his official X account (formerly Twitter) reflecting on his journey to stardom

“As a young boy who came from the streets of Olusosun, who had to hawk in traffic almost every day of the week while growing up to survive the numerous challenges my family and I were facing, becoming a Treasure in Africa and the World Football was a wild dream, Osimhen said on X( formerly Twitter).

“Words can’t express the joy in my heart; this is a very special moment for me. My football journey has been a rollercoaster of highs, tough lows and emotions. The goals and jubilation of victories keep me going even when criticism, hate, and the pain of defeat hit me hard in the chest. Osimhen said after being named CAF 2023 Men’s Player of the Year in Morocco.

Dedicates 2023 CAF Award to late parents

The former Lille forward who started playing football on the streets of Olusosun has proven himself to be one of the best strikers in the world after helping Napoli win their first Serie A trophy in 33 years.

Osimhen expressed gratitude to his late parents for their support while growing up as a young hawker on the streets of Olusosun in Lagos.

“Losing my dear parents in the course of this journey leaves a scar in my heart as they have always been my major driving force for success since I was a kid. May their souls continue to rest in peace. To my wonderful family, thanks for always having my back and loving me so much. I wouldn’t have made it this far without your esteemed support.

“To my fans and Nigerian supporters, your dedication in supporting me on the good and bad days does not go unnoticed; even amidst the arrows of hatred thrown at me, you all stood by my side. I am grateful. Winning the CAF Best African Player 2023 is a testament to my hard work and your love and support. I am so proud of myself for achieving this prestigious award.

Words for his fans

The 24-year-old is now the new king of African football, a climax of an excellent one-year football calendar charting a new path to stardom and greatness also thanked his Nigerian fans for their unwavering support even in his shortcomings

“To my fans and Nigerian supporters, your dedication in supporting me on the good days and bad days does not go unnoticed, even amidst the arrows of hatred thrown at me you all still stood by my side. I am grateful. Winning the CAF Best African Player 2023 is a testament to my hardwork, your love and support. I am so proud of myself for achieving this prestigious award.”

Sings Amuneke praises for discovering him

While speaking after receiving the CAF 2023 Men’s Player of the Year Award, Osimhen expressed gratitude to former Nigeria international Emmanuel Amuneke, who discovered him in his early days and coached him at the U-17 level.

“First of all, I want to say thank you to God for everything. Special thanks go to Mr Emmanuel Amuneke; without him, I don’t think I would be standing in front of you guys holding one of the most prestigious awards in world football,” Osimhen said in Marrakesh.

“He believed in me right from the start and was at the heart of our 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup victory in Chile. He gave me the opportunity to really showcase myself and when things were not going well with me, he was the brain behind the motivation and it is absolutely right for me to acknowledge him at the biggest stage because, behind closed doors, he has helped me a lot. He is present here and here to witness what he has produced,” an emotional Osimhen told CAFOnline.

Amuneke, the 1994 African Player of the Year, was crucial to Nigeria’s triumph in the AFCON before taking the world by storm at the FIFA World Cup in the USA scoring against Bulgaria and Italy. He was part of Nigeria’s team that won a gold medal at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

Eyes 2023 AFCON glory

Osimhen further revealed that this prestigious CAF award is a motivation for him and his teammates ahead of the 2023 AFCON 2023 in Ivory Coast in January 2024.

The Super Eagles have won the AFCON three times in 1980, 1994 and 2013 and the Napoli star has set his sights on delivering a fourth AFCON title for Nigeria.

The Super Eagles are in Group A with the hosts, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau.

“We are ready and preparing very well. The squad is in high spirits. We are raring to go and hope that we shall do well there,” Osimhen added.

Osimhen is also the highest goal scorer in the AFCON 2023 qualifiers with 10 goals.

His performances also earned him a nomination for the Ballon d’Or, where he finished 8th, becoming the first Nigerian to make the top 10 of the Ballon d’Or voting.

Osimhen bagged an incredible 31 goals in 39 matches across all competitions for Napoli last season and has continued his fantastic scoring record this campaign, as he has already netted six goals in 10 matches.

Osimhen’s rise from a poor upbringing in Lagos to his current position one of the best strikers and players in the world is a testament to his talent, tenacity, and ability to overcome obstacles to become the king of African football.