Surrounded by houses, palm trees, a small LPG refilling station, and a community church is a 5-a-side football pitch where Mr. Gideon John coaches young boys on how to become giant eagles of Africa.
A location that used to be a bush, a farmland, then a block industry is now the training ground for 14-year-olds including those below and above the age grade.
“Coachi” as the lads call him, travelled from Plateau State, North of Nigeria, to Nasarawa 17 years ago, and has since dedicated his live to football. Before bearing the title, Mr John was a security man in charge of protecting the land which happens to be a church’s property. At first, he was reluctant to train the boys who found their way into his little abode where he lives and grows grains.
Giant Eagles: The Beginning Of The Journey
Waking up on the right side of the bed after a year, Mr John blew the whistle that started the journey of cutting woods, making goalposts of mosquito nets, and demarcating the boundaries of a 5-a-side football pitch where parents and passers-by came in mass to watch kids- potential future giant eagles of Africa- play morning and evening.
Coach John started really small — in size and in number. Though 5-a-side pitches vary in size and a standard one is measured at 40 x 30 yards (36.5m x 27.5m), yet he started with a small portion.
“…in the first training, we were having about ten players, and later the turnout was another thing else, then the field was very small. I had no choice than to ensure I harvested my sweet potatoes to extend the field…”
He has been training the kids since 2018 and has organized different competitions (with cash prizes) in the community to spread the value of the game and the unity it fosters. Some of the kids have grown to gain opportunities in Europe — where the game of football is a very serious business — while more still come full of dreams and hope.
But the 39-year old believes in God that agents will troop in to find how talented his boys are and worthy of investment. Despite the state of the economy with poor or no support from people, he told us Giant Eagles will rise — a team name inspired from the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Mr. Gideon John lamented about football in Africa, saying:
“Why has it been that Africa so far in World Cup, none of the teams has exceeded quarter final. It has been Round of 16 and quarter final. (In 2010), Ghana were the ones we thought would reach the semi final.
You can imagine the competition since the 1950s. Corruption is one of the reasons our football is down. Down in the sense that everybody wants his or her player to play.
Nobody wants to know whether the local ones are good enough. We recorded a good performance back in 1994 and 1996 as a result of grassroots discoveries…
Mr Gideon John is a huge fan of Chelsea Football Club and has been greatly influenced by José Mourinho (Portuguese football manager), Pep Guardiola (Spanish football manager), and Jürgen Klopp (German football manager).
By Elijah Christopher
Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.