By: Echoda Daniel
The journey towards becoming a successful sportsman or athlete is not always an easy one. Apart from your skills and potential, you will also need resilience to be able to endure and push through thick and thin in the mileage until you retire. Right from the academy where they get picked to when they finally make it, athletes have to learn to cope with the negative comments and criticisms from fans and coaches, especially when they make a major mistake in a match and things do not go well with their clubs.
A recent FIFA report has it that, in the last decade, Nigerian clubs have sold 1,904 players in international transfers. This looks very impressive, and obviously, a great leap and a huge achievement for these up-and-coming athletes, but we have little or no idea about their many struggles behind the scenes. Even at the peak of their career, apart from cynics who jibe at them when things go south, some of them still have to put up with coaches who have little or no faith in their potential.
A case in point is the experience of William Troost-Ekong. It has been a bumpy journey for the Super Eagles captain who also plays as a center-back for the English Premier League side, Watford F.C. Like most Nigerians who make it through to strong leagues like the English Premier League which he plays for, he has also had a share of the struggle as a footballer.
Before his senior career in the Netherlands, he played at youth level in England for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur. He revealed recently that his last moments as a Tottenham player were not encouraging. “One of my last moments at Tottenham Hotspur before I left Spurs was when I had a meeting with one of my coaches, he told me and my mum that I wasn’t good enough to play, that he didn’t think I could make it as a footballer,” he said.
But to the Nigerian international, that was never a good reason to make him give up on his dreams. In fact, he saw the experience as the reason he needed to keep pushing. “This kind of upset me so much at the time,” he said, “but later became a big point for me to prove, first to them, then to myself, and finally to the world that I am good enough to make it to the top.”
He then went ahead to make great achievements in his career. Ever since his debut for Nigeria in 2015, he has earned more than 40 caps for the country. As of today, he boasts of over 227 appearances for clubs and country, and bronze medals from AFCON and the 2016 summer Olympics.
There are certainly others who have given up as a result of situations like this, and are never heard of again. The capacity to recover quickly from them is what makes a few, like Troost-Ekong, stand out and make a head-way to become great athletes today. Resilience is key to one’s journey as a sportsperson. One must develop a thick skin if one wants to succeed. Quitters, they say, never win!