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My very good friend Lasisi mentors inner city youths. He has been to a number of Nigerian cities where he taught good citizenship using football training camps as point of entry.

He was in our office the other day to share the details of his work with us. Quiet an impeccable vision and achievement from this humane gentleman. One story stood out though, a tale about his funny discovery at Ajegunle- Nigeria’s slum Capital.

Lasisi’s foundation partnered with another on-ground foundation in Ajegunle. It was the facilitator who gave him a pre-feild briefing. What he learnt challenged his knowledge of Nigerian cities. He learnt that Ajegunle might be a slum, it is however Nigeria’s Silicon Valley. It is a hub, an ecosystem of all kinds of industrial outputs.

It is on record that in any Nigerian National Football team, there is always one from Ajegunle. AJ City’s export include Emmanuel Amunike who plyed his trade at Barcelona and most rently qualified Tanzania for the upcoming AFCON in June. Samson Siasia, Jonathan Akpoborie, Odion Ighalo, Nnamdi Oduamadi and Taribo West are noteable graduates of this fledging slum.

The famous flavelas of Brazil does not even carry a touch light not to talk of candle in terms of successful graduates. The story of AJ city is so gladening. But this is so because it is also a jungle.

Imagine the chaos of a family of 6 living in 2 rooms in a large face-me-i-face you building. Imagine the ignominy of having to share the kitchen, bathroom and toilet with other co-tenants. What about kids having to watch or listen as their parents made love or the neighbors and their children hearing the sounds of it because the whole place is jampacked.

Now that you get the true picture of what life in AJ city looks like, it will not be hard for you to see that poverty, crime, delinquency, morbidity, and all the bad indicators will thrive and flourish there. Visiting as Head of State in those days, Gowon called it the “Jungle City”.

Didnt they say what can produce so much pain can as well produce so much joy? There are fun sides to AJ city too, Football.

Because the kids have nothing to do, they roam about the street playing football. They play it regularly that it has become their second nature. Many of them are naturally gifted, playing regularly has horned their skill set.

Football is big business in AJ city, from time to time they play street vs street, different tournaments, and different competitions. Because the matches can be as fiery as those of River plate and Bocca junior in Argentina, recruiters for the local club football and the National teams are always in attendance.

If you were on ground and participating actively in their Football competitions and tournaments, you could be the next big name player. If the stars were to align, what stops you from playing at Barcelona with your hero, Messi?

Even if you were to fail in your venture, AJ City has also produced musicians of note. The Daddy Showckey of this world, Baba Fryo, Nico Gravity, African China are also some of its export. If your luck or your head is not in music, nothing stops you from trying your hands in business and becoming the next Coscharis another alumini of this Jungle slum.

The word in Ajegunle is survival. If you survive here, then you can survive the boo boys in Real Madrid.

Now clap for my friend Lasisi, his work for humanity is helping to make sure that no one is left behind. Not even the inner city kids of Ajegunle, the boys who started playing football right from the womb.

Anih Ambrose SDP wrote this piece. Ambrose is a Sustainable development expert. You can reach him at ambrose@swngr.com.ng

Notice Board: This is our final story celebrating the International Day Of Sport For Peace And Development 2019.

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