I’ll be a better keeper than my father — Daniel Aiyenugba


Sixteen-year-old Beyond Limits goalkeeper Daniel Aiyenugba, son of former Super Eagles keeper Dele Aiyenugba, shares his dream of playing for the national team, the joy of coming up against his father and more, in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA

How did you feel when you recently faced off against your dad in a pre-season tournament and came out victorious? 

I feel so happy and fulfilled because it is not something you often see happen and I don’t think that has ever happened in Nigerian football before. For that to have happened means we made history and I am very delighted with that.

Would you love to see more of that happen?

Definitely, I enjoyed and cherished that day and I would love to see it happen again. I am sure he will love to see it happen again too because we both loved what happened that day and we even talked about it.

Before the match did you both talk about the experience of coming up against each other?

Yes, we talked about it and we both laughed over it. He actually helped me to stay focused and calm for the match because it seemed awkward playing against my dad. He said to me that I should just enjoy the game and forget about the talks going around about us.

I remember he also said to me that if my team wins, he would give me N10,000 but if we lose I will have to pay him.

Has he redeemed his pledge to you?

Honestly, we haven’t seen each other since after the match because I am with Remo academy and I had to return to class. But I am sure that he will definitely give it to me whenever we see because I know him very well, he always fulfils his promises.

How close are you to your dad?

We are very close and I will say he has always been there for me even when he was not in the country. He always tried to keep in touch and he gave me advice; he taught me a lot too. So, I will say that we are very close.

Your dad is a goalkeeper and you have equally chosen the same path. Did he influence your decision to become a keeper?

I will say he influenced my decision to become a goalkeeper in a little way because whenever he was on break with his club and he came home, we would watch some videos of him together and I was happy with him, that was how it started. When he left for Israel, I had a coach who trained me and he would send the videos to my dad, he was very happy and told me to continue. In a way, it was my decision to be a goalkeeper but he played some role in it.

At what age did it occur to you that you wanted to be a goalkeeper?

I think I was around eight or nine years old when I made up my mind that I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my dad.

Did you at any point wear his hand gloves to train?

Yes, I did. There were times that I wore them just playing at home but it was my coach that got me my first gloves and later my dad started sending me gloves from Europe.

Who is your role model?

My dad has always been my role model and I also want to thank my coach for the lessons. My favourite goalkeeper in Europe is Barcelona and Germany goalkeeper Andre Ter Stegen. He is a fantastic goalkeeper and I watch his videos a lot so that I can learn from him.

While your dad was in Israel, how did you react to the matches that he ended up on the losing side?

I didn’t watch any of his games live when he was in Israel because I was very young. So, I can say I was lucky not to know how to feel about him losing because I know it must be tough for him. But I started watching many of the videos on YouTube now that I am a bit older and I understand what it feels like losing. You just have to move on and prepare for the next game.

There is an online video of your younger brother also training to be a goalkeeper. Will you say this runs in the family?

I think so but it still comes down to hard work and determination because without it we will not be able to bring the talent inside of us.

Do you see yourself playing for Nigeria just like your dad?

It is something I would love to do because that is the dream of every footballer and I am sure he will be the happiest father if that happens.

Do you think you can be better than your father?

Of course, I am sure that I can be better than my father and the truth is that he wants me to be better than him and that is why he has been very supportive and he shares ideas with me.

How has the journey been so far?

It is going well because I am at a place where I have the opportunity to develop myself and improve my game. My dream is to play in Europe and probably play for Barcelona some day.

Among your peers you are a popular figure. How do you handle the pressure around you?

I just live my normal life as a teenager and stay focused. Honestly, I don’t allow anything to get at me or try to feel better than others. I am currently in SS2 and it means I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go and that is why I just live my life as a teenager that I am.

Do you see yourself advancing your education beyond secondary school?

The plan is to finish my secondary education and move further to the university because it is very important that I go to school.

During the time that your dad was not in Nigeria, how did you feel as a young boy?

I really missed him then and there are times that I feel sad but they always made me understand that it is his work and now I understand better .It was tough for me when he was not around and I don’t want that for my children when I grow up and start having my family. We will definitely move together to wherever I am going.