From Lagos to Middle East Africa Championships, Adebiyi is living his dream
Nigeria Rugby League player Sadiq Adebiyi could hardly believe his luck when a Sky Sports camera was put in front of his face, as he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a Nigerian government official. The Lagos-born player, who plays for professional Super League side London Broncos, recently visited the Nigerian Embassy, in the English capital, to promote the launch of the Nigeria national team.
Nigeria are set to make their international debut in Rugby League, when they play in the Middle East Africa Championships against Ghana, Cameroun and Morocco and the 22-year-old was given the opportunity to promote the historic competition. “I never thought I’d get to represent Nigeria in Rugby League,” he told The Guardian. “To have that opportunity is a dream-come-true for me. “It’s a great opportunity for me to go back to Nigeria and give back to everyone there. I think they’ll love it when they see what people like I’ve done.
“My mum is really proud, for ages they were asking me why I don’t play for Nigeria, but there wasn’t a team. “She was telling everyone back home. It all really kicked in when I was at the Nigerian High Commission and I was on Sky Sports talking about playing for Nigeria, it was a surreal moment for me to be able to be there.
“I was having a chat with the Nigerian Ambassador, George Adesola Oguntade and with Rugby League legend, Martin Offiah, who also has Nigerian heritage, and it was a really special moment for me.”
The London-based forward may have left Lagos when he was six-years-old, but his heritage never left him, as he headed for a city enriched in Rugby League, Warrington. Top side Warrington Wolves recently lifted the Challenge Cup at Wembley Stadium, Rugby League’s equivalent of the FA Cup, but it was not in the heart of the game where Adebiyi found the sport. “I was still pretty young when I moved over,” he added.
“Lagos was a really good place, I remember being a kid just running around, we were in the city. “I was fortunate, I had a really good grounding. My dad owns an advertising company, so we were fairly well off. “Education was a big factor in my parents coming over to England. I visited for a couple of weeks, originally, and then I moved over when I was six. “We came over to Warrington, first. It was a bizarre place to move to, but we had cousins who lived there.
“I didn’t pick up the game in Warrington, I just wanted to play football, like everyone else. I played it once in school, then I went down to Rylands Sharks, a local junior team. “I was at school with Harvey Livett, who plays for Warrington Wolves, and he also played for Rylands. I had the opportunity to play against him, when he was at Hull KR and for Warrington, it’s certainly a strange one how my career has turned out compared to his.” Adebiyi headed for London with his family, due to his mother earning a job at the New Scotland Yard, the home of the Metropolitan Police Force in the UK, where again the Nigerian community welcomed them with open arms. He eventually rekindled his love for Rugby League, before carving his way to being part of the London Broncos side who defeated Canadian side Toronto Wolfpack in the Million Pound Game to earn promotion to Super League, the sport’s top tier.
“I remember when we were moving down, I didn’t really want to,” he said. “We moved to Hackney, East London. My mum already had a house there so we moved straight in, there was a big Nigerian community down there.“When you move to a new place, you’d think it would be tough to find new friends, but my mum knew people from Nigeria down there.”
It was there, while playing for local-side Staines, that he would meet fellow Nigeria player, Tuoyo Egodo, who plays for Castleford Tigers, with the two now getting the opportunity to represent their heritage. The two youngsters will once again link up, with Egodo moving back to London next season.
“We played together when we was 13.” Adebiyi explained.“We’re quite close and we’ve spoke together about playing for Nigeria together. Both of our families are really happy to be involved. “In the time since we’ve played together, Nigerian Rugby League didn’t even exist and now we’re getting the chance to play for London Broncos first-team together and represent our Nigerian heritage. Stuff like that makes playing Rugby League worth it every day.
“It only takes a couple of people like us to get things going. We’re both young and eager to represent our country. We might all play for England in the future, but our Nigerian heritage will never leave us, we’ll always play for them when we can.”
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