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Nigeria may lose 15-year-old Akinmboni to U.S.

Matai Akinmboni is a highly talented 15-year-old left-footed centre-back, currently trending as the third youngest footballer to make a professional debut in the history of Major League Soccer

Matai Akinmboni is a highly talented 15-year-old left-footed centre-back, currently trending as the third youngest footballer to make a professional debut in the history of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States.

He also added another achievement to his kitty by being part of the starting line-up for DC United in the match against Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah. Although he was born in Maryland, his parents are of Nigerian heritage.

Matai Akinmboni


His father and mother, Taiye and Abiola Akinmboni were born in Idanre, Ondo and Lagos State respectively.  

Standing at 6’2ft, Matai joined Freddy Adu and Alphonso Davies to imprint his name on the historical roll call of youths, who made their first appearance on the professional stage at record-breaking ages.

Born on October 17, 2006, he started informal training at 18 months with quick feet. He joined DC United Academy at the age of nine, where he was impressive over the years. He is currently home-schooled and acquiring his education via an online school called K 12 Stride Academy, which is equivalent to Virginia private school.  

Matai also showed off his extraordinary skills at Loudoun United in the USL Championship. He signed a professional contract with DC United on August 31, 2022. Wayne Rooney, the team’s head coach, was said to have called him a “big prospect” because of his defensive prowess. 

Rooney, who began playing for Everton at the age of 16 and enjoyed a successful career with Manchester United, supports the inclusion of young players in matches, as seen by his tenure as coach of Derby County FC, which he has reprised in DC United.

He was impressed by the youngster during training, and although the match ended goalless, with Real Salt lake, Rooney was full of praises for him and stated “He (Matai) has been excellent in training and he deserved to come in. Matai’s contract with DC United runs through to December 31, 2025, with options in 2026 and 2027. 

Matai with an impeccable record received his first call-up to the United States U-17 national team in August.

Mr Taiye Akinmboni said: “We are proud of our son and what he has achieved at such a tender age. He imbibed the principles of resilience, diligence, good sportsmanship, paid attention to details, and was focused. It would have been nice to see him play for Nigeria and who knows maybe that will happen someday but no one from NFF has made any effort to contact us.

“We tried to reach out through many channels to those facilitating Nigeria’s U-17 team before the CAF tournament in Ghana, but again we got no response. We were disappointed that the body language of the NFF for whatever reason spoke volumes about their complacency and nil interest in him but then again we weren’t surprised at their choice of being incommunicado. It is sad that the NFF has proven its deficiency in scouting for talents worldwide even though the information is readily available. See how the U.S. placed a high value on Matai and went ahead to call him to be part of their U-17 National team. We are grateful to God for this,” he stated. 
 
On the journey so far, Matai stated: “It’s been an interesting one. I’m passionate about playing football. I enjoy every moment as I can express myself the most when I’m on the field without being tense. Didier Drogba was my favourite player while growing up but I watched and studied Virgil Van Dijk the most. Up until the age of 12 or 13, I was a midfielder/ attacker, but since I made the switch to being a defender, I have been enjoying it. I hope to get more playing time to gain experience and eventually help the club win more trophies to increase its great history.”

Matai has a great future ahead of him and is poised to become one of the best centre-backs the world has ever known.