Sunday, 10th December 2023

History between the sticks: Dele Aiyenugba prepares for next generation 

By Christian Okpara
13 August 2023   |   6:19 am
History is replete with sibling rivalries or brothers playing alongside each in sports competitions. But scenes where fathers and sons compete against each other are rare. To some fathers, the greatest joy in their careers is seeing their sons lining up against them in competitive games.

Captain and goalkeeper of Kwara United Football Club, Dele Aiyenugba, (left) exchanging pre-match pleasantries with his son, captain and goalkeeper of Beyond Academy of Ikenne, Daniel, while match officials watch, during the ongoing Valuejet Pre-season competition, in Ikenne, Ogun State.

History is replete with sibling rivalries or brothers playing alongside each in sports competitions. But scenes where fathers and sons compete against each other are rare. To some fathers, the greatest joy in their careers is seeing their sons lining up against them in competitive games. That is because it is one thing to produce a son talented enough to follow in your footsteps as a footballer, but to have careers that overlap is pretty rare.

Experts say having a talented father doesn’t guarantee success for a child, but it is an advantage. There are several instances in modern sports where fathers have lined up with their sons in games. One of the cases that easily comes to mind is that of Brazil legend, Rivaldo and his son, Rivaldinho, who in 2013 played a game together for his boyhood club, Mogi Mirim, shortly before his initial retirement from the sport.

The Barcelona great came out of retirement in 2015 for a game against Macae, where he and his 20-year-old son scored a goal each. There were also the Eremenkos of Russia, who played and won trophies for Finnish club, HJK Helsinki for two seasons, as well as Arnor Gudjohnsen and his son, Eidur, who played in the same game for Iceland against Estonia in 1996.

Former Sweden great, Henrik Larsson and his son, 15-year-old Jordan, are on record to have played together for Henrik’s boyhood club, while he was trying to wind up his career in the Swedish fourth-tier team, Hogaborgs BK.

In Nigeria’s football history, there have been football dynasties, but it is rare to see father and son playing in the same team, not to talk of playing against each other.

The most celebrated footballing families are the Okalas, who for over 25 years kept Enugu Rangers’ goalkeeping position in their family. The senior Okala, Emmanuel, held Rangers’ number one position from 1973 to 1982, before his younger brother, the late Patrick Okala, took over from 1983 to the early 1990s.

The Odegbamis- Segun and Wole, also had careers that overlapped, but while Segun made his name with IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Wole played for city rivals, Leventis United just when his older brother was winding up his career. Other notable families in Nigerian football history are the Okochas (Emma and Austin Jay Jay), Amunekes (Emma, Kelvin, and Kingsley), Olisehs (Sunday, Azubuike, and Egwuatu), and the Rufais (Peter and Sunday).

While the aforementioned stars are household names easily identified by Nigerians for playing for top clubs or the national team at different times, one has to search the record books thoroughly to discover any father-and-son rivalry in the history of Nigerian football. That was what the Aiyenugbas achieved early last week when they lined up for different clubs in the ongoing Valuejet Pre-season competition in Ikenne, Ogun State.

Aiyenugba, a former Super Eagles goalkeeper, returned to the country two seasons ago to join his boyhood club, Kwara United, to wind up a career that took him to Enyimba, where he won the CAF Champions League back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, before venturing to Europe to play for some of Israel’s biggest clubs.

As captain of Kwara United, he was instrumental to the team’s impressive run in the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL) last season in which they narrowly missed qualification for the championship play-off.

The much-decorated former Enyimba of Aba captain made history when he lined up against his son, Daniel, who captained Beyond Limits Academy of Ikenne in one of the semifinals of the competition won by Shooting Stars of Ibadan.

They conceded two goals each in the game that ended 2-2 in regulation time, but even though both saved a penalty each in the match-deciding shootout, the younger Aiyenugba had the last laugh as his side won the game 4-3.

The icing on the cake for Daniel was that he won a N10,000 bet that he had with his father over whose team would emerge victorious from the game. Speaking after the game, Dele Aiyenugba said Tuesday’s match was the first time he would be lining up against his 15-year-old son, confirm bet predictions adding that he is proud of the steps the young David was making in the game.

“I am a proud father because I have watched him do great things even at this young age and it was a dream come true seeing him on the same pitch with me in a tournament of this magnitude.

“It seems as if I have won a jackpot because it is not every time you see something like this happening. Playing against my son, betting tips 1×2 who is also his team’s captain, made me grateful to God.

“Before our game, we came together to watch the match between Rivers United and Shooting Stars; we joked about playing against each other and we had a bet that the loser will pay the winner N10,000. What that means now is that I am owing him N10,000, which I will pay him when we see.”

The senior Aiyenugba said he realised how serious his son took the semifinal clash between Kwara United and No Limits Academy when the teams lined up for pre-match rituals.

“During the handshake before the game, bet prediction Daniel could not look at me. He looked so serious and businesslike…he was too eager for his team to beat us. I must give it to him because he has been a good keeper,” Aiyenugba said.

The Egypt 2006 African Cup of Nations bronze medallist revealed that he started training Daniel to master his legwork before tutoring him on proper goalkeeping. He said: “Now that he has played against me, I believe he will not be afraid to confront any situation in his career,” he said.

Daniel came to the limelight at the age of 12 in 2021 when he won the goalkeeper of the tournament award at the Ramat Cup Competition in Kano. The lad, gambling who, like his father, is adept in stopping penalty kicks, gives his dad the credit for his rapid development in the game.

He revealed that he started learning from his father while watching him in games. “I also watch a lot of video clips of my dad, even up till now. Any time he comes home during his offseason, he does his goalkeeping training on the same pitch as my brother and me.

“I hope to one day play for big clubs and the national team like my father,” he said. Thrilled by the father-son relationship, former Super Eagles’ goalkeepers, Ike Shorunmu and Alloy Agu commended Dele Aiyenugba for being able to groom another player in his family.

Shorunmu said parents stand a better chance of bequeathing their skills to their children than any academy, bet prediction site adding, however, that it is a difficult thing these days to decide careers for children.

“I congratulate him for the historical moment on the pitch; it is a privilege for a son to play against his father before he retires. But I don’t think it has set any precedent for other sports stars because these days you don’t force your children to do anything outside what they desire.

“My children did not take to football and there was nothing I could do about it. But people like Aiyenugba must be commended because it is not easy to accomplish that,” he said. Agu said Dele Aiyenugba has created an everlasting memory in his son, which would encourage him to aspire to become a great star.

“When our children toe the same path with us, it brings joy to our being. I am happy for Aiyenugba.

“The standard Aiyenugba has set can motivate his son to stardom. Every great man wants his son or daughter to be greater than him and I think God will help Aiyenugba’s son to achieve his goal in goalkeeping,” he said.

While commending Aiyenugba for grooming his son in the art of goalkeeping, former Super Falcons’ coach, Godwin Izilien, urged stakeholders, as well as government at all levels, to provide the enabling environment for sports stars to encourage their children to choose careers in sports.

“It is exciting to see your child contest against you while you are still active. It creates more value for that child.

“This is a sign of well-planned development from a tender age. The government needs to create an enabling environment for sports stars to thrive so that their children will also love to take to sports,” he said.

In this article