Afeez Oyetoro, popularly known as Saka, is a popular Nigerian comic actor and television personality. In this interview with JOHNNY EDWARD, Oyetoro opens up on his love for badminton and how the U-23 men’s football team won his heart after their 1996 Atlanta Olympics triumph
Can we meet you?
I am Hafiz Oyetoro, from Iseyin in Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State. I attended Baptist Day Primary school and Koso Grammar School, all in Iseyin. Thereafter, I attended the University of Ile Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, where I bagged a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts and M.A from the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. Aside entertainment, most people don’t know that I am anlecturer at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin, Lagos in the Theatre Arts Department. I am happily married and blessed with children too.
How was growing up like and were you involved in sporting activities?
Growing up was interesting for me. I was more of an easygoing individual back then and till date. I played badminton in my secondary school days and I enjoyed it a lot because it didn’t involve contacts like football, boxing and UFC.
I never liked football as such, but I followed the Nigerian team each time they played. At some point, I stopped because of the kind of results they were getting and how it was affecting me afterwards. Each time they lost, I was always sad and I didn’t like such feeling, so I stopped. My parents supported me to go into sports but at some point I lost passion for badminton and delved into acting, which brought me the fame.
How good were you as a badminton player?
I was pretty good back then. I had good serves and I was athletic on the court. But there came a time that I had to choose between acting and badminton suffered for it. Acting that time won my passion and was fetching me some money at that time.
Which football team do you support?
I don’t really have a team I support. I’m not crazy about football that much, but I love to watch Nigerian teams play. I actually love the class of 1994 that won the Africa Cup of Nations and the team that won the Olympics in Atlanta. I recall the semi-final game when we were trailing 3-1 against Brazil in Atlanta, I turned off my television and went to bed out of anger. But the noisy celebration of neighbours back then woke me up and when I went to the balcony to see why they were chanting, I saw a Nigerian flag with them. Then I sensed that Nigeria had fought back and drew level. That sparked a different feeling in me never to give up. I went back to my sitting room to watch the extra time and thank God Nigeria won 4-3. Those players were so dedicated and patriotic. I finally saw how Nwankwo Kanu scored the winner to send the Dream Team through to the final and at that point I became their No.1 fan. I love those bunch of players because of their level of commitment and that is why they are still reckoned with till date.
I love Kanu, Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West and others as well. They were passionate about the team. But due to recent results, I no longer follow the team like before. When the Super Eagles lose, I don’t feel happy as I become moody and it ruins whatever I do, so I stopped watching the team.
I last followed the game when the late Stephen Keshi led the Eagles to the 2013 AFCON title. Keshi was a warrior and a player turned coach that I liked so much. I hope the current crop of players can emulate their predecessors and win something for the nation and themselves.
Looking at how much sportsmen and women earn these days, do regret not taking sports as a career?
I don’t have any at all, but simply my rise has been to the glory of God. It is not me but the grace of God. As you are talking to me, you are a superstar. Once you are able to do things in your own field very well, you are a superstar. In your own right as a reporter and writer, you are a superstar too. It is just in Nigeria that we give some special emphasis to some people. Once you are able to do what you are doing very well and you are known for it, then you are a superstar. But for me, I am just thriving in what I know how to do best.
Is any of your children interested in acting?
One of my children seems interested in being an actor like me. I don’t want to force them into any career. I give them the freedom to choose what they want to do. Whatever they want to become, mine is to support them.
Will you support any of them if they decide to take to sports?
Of course, I will, so long they have the passion to carry along with it because I stayed long as an actor because of the passion I had for entertainment and the rewards are here now after a very long while. But they must be disciplined. I don’t joke with home training and education. I also ensure that they are close to God. Those are my priorities. I let them understand the realities of life; that one needs to work hard to be successful. I want to thank God that I know one or two people. But I don’t want my children to rely on people. I am giving them the best education that I can afford now. Knowledge is power. If they have the knowledge, they will know how to manage their lives. Once you equip your children with knowledge, you have done everything for them. I started school at nine. My children started school at age three or four. They would finish their education on time. I want to train them to be self-employed or employable so they won’t start afresh like me. I started from the scratch.