From losing his mum in his teenage years, to dropping out of school due to poverty, and his father getting a job for him as the first-born while forbidding him from playing football, which he eventually did by leaving home to stay with a football coach, the story of Dele Alampasu is an interesting one.
Today, the amazing fairy tale is still enchanting, as Alampasu graduated from being the Best Goalkeeper when Nigeria won the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup to becoming a member of the Flying Eagles, now a member of the Super Eagles squad. Considering all the challenges of the past, it is understandable that Alampasu cannot hide his happiness withe the progress he has made.
“I am so happy with my Eagles call up because I have been with the Super Eagles home based before. So, it is not the first time. But I don’t know that this is how it’s going to be for me. Maybe it’s so fast but I am very happy about this,” he told TheCable on Tuesday.
“It’s just a time for me to work hard because it is not easy [for a coach] to change goalkeepers without any strong reason. But I have to work hard for me to keep in shape because I can get the call up anytime. So, that when I get the call up, I don’t disappoint myself and the country.”
At club level, Alampasu hasn’t quite been able to replicate his national-team success. “The first time I went to Europe I signed with Estoril,” he recalled.
“But after the U20 World Cup, I had a visa problem in Abuja and before I got the visa, the season had already started. So, by the time I got there, they had already gotten another goalkeeper on loan. With this, I had to cancel the contract and move on to see how to go ahead with my career.”
There were also stories of clashes with agents, but he debunked them, saying: “I am still with my agent. I didn’t change my agent. He is Olusola Orelaja.
“When I signed with Estoril, I had a big challenge with the football college about clearance. But then, NFF settled the issue, that I could sign with any club I wanted. That no academy could hold me from moving forward in my career.”
Having gone through the rungs of the national age-grade teams before arriving at the Super Eagles, Alampasu is well-placed to analyse the differences between all the setups.
“Normally, you cannot compare the Golden Eaglets with the Flying Eagles. And the Flying Eagles is different from the Super Eagles. So, what I learnt while with the Golden Eaglets is like a beginning process for me. And Flying Eagles boost me up,” he said.
“After the Flying Eagles, I am now with the Super Eagles. Here, it is the highest level for me. What I have seen here is far different from what I have learnt from the U17 or the U20. So, I think here, I am really really enjoying it. And I am gaining some experience from the first goalkeeper and the other ones too. What I am learning from them, I am adding to mine, which I believe will give me more courage to work hard, to push me more even in my club.
“However, winning the FIFA Under 17 World Cup remains my biggest ever moment in football. Yes, that was the highest moment in my career because that was my first outing for Nigeria, winning the U-17 World Cup and ending up as the best goalkeeper in the tournament. So, that alone keep me moving. Anytime I remember that, it gives me joy and acts as a motivator that I can still do it with the Super Eagles. ”
Finally, he recalls the huge challenges of growing up and the unfortunate loss of his mum, and how his dad did all in his power to stop him from taking football as a career: “My growing up was a tough one. We were four children. I am the first and only boy with three other younger sisters.
“My daddy never wanted me to play football. He was always telling me go to school but after my mum died, there was nothing. I had to go hustling on my own. My dad got me a job because I could not continue with schooling. But I loved football so much that even while in school, we did play set.
“I had to leave home to stay with a coach in 2008/09 to help my football career. Then I also started hawking things that I cannot start mentioning right now, to make a living until God answered my prayers. I am happy that things are turning out better for me.”