Leon Balogun is a German-born Nigerian professional football defender who was first called up by Nigeria for a March 2014 friendly against Mexico. He started playing football at a tender age and after several years of progress moved on to play for a Premier League club in England.
– By Toyin Eleniyan
Leon is a music lover.In his spare time, he prefers to listen to music, read books, play games or hangout with friends. As a child, he was very active and talented and played football because most of the boys were playing it. However, he didn’t enjoy watching football and was only curious about the world cup because he got to see big stars. Although he was very good at basketball, his interest in football came up later when he was about 10 years old.
Leon believes that the biggest mistake budding footballers can make is impatience and giving up on their dreams. “I think a lot of young players want too much too early,” he stated.“They focus on the benefits, instead of really working for them. There are players that are gifted and talented, so everything falls into their laps, more or less, and they tend to be a bit lazier sometimes than players who have to work harder. That is something almost every coach told me; hard work always beats talent and I think great players or great and successful characters throughout history will tell you the same thing as well. So, don’t underestimate work even if you are very talented, because it will get you farther”.
Leon believes that youth empowerment is necessary as it is very important to give young people some kind of hope and vision, telling them where they can go and what they can achieve in life.
Leon has always picked and looked up to people like Thierry Henry, Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Ronaldinho, etc. For him, he wanted to accomplish the same things that they were able to accomplish. In sports, especially football, he believes that with hard work and consistent training, you get to envision and imagine for yourself what professionals have achieved in their careers. In his career, he looks up to Lebron James and Christiano Ronaldo – two perfect examples of hard work and dedication. He believes it is good to get insight from what other successful people doin order to learn from them.
“As a footballer, I think there are different doors that open up but I think it depends a lot on your character,” he stated.“Concerning other aspects of sports that footballers can look into, for me, I’m more interested in the psychological aspects of sports.” He believes more can be done for the players with respect to mental health and self-confidence as there’s usually a lot of stress and pressure felt. The industry is vast and some might want to be agents, club managers or run their own businesses, but it all depends on character.
Once you reach a certain level, you get to meet certain people and several doors open. According to Leon, regardless of the path you take, it is always good to have some qualifications because nowadays, you have to show people something, so they can see what you have accomplished and trust you enough to give you your request.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.