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Taiwo Awoniyi: Budding Nigerian Footballer’s Rise to European Football

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Nigeria has produced another gem in Taiwo Awoniyi. The striker has hit headlines in Germany for outstanding performances and gained international attention. Awoniyi’s journey to stardom is one of patience and determination.

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In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the budding footballer.

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Taiwo Awoniyi’s Early Life and Education

Taiwo Awoniyi hails from Ilorin, Nigeria, He came from a poor background. His father was a police officer and his mother did menial jobs to help provide for the family. At a young age, he played football a lot and the biggest gift he received from his mother was a soccer ball.

Some of his neighbors advised him to stop playing a lot but he kept on. That said, his father had a different plan for him. He wanted his son to become a medical doctor. However, Awoniyi already knew what he wanted to pursue. 

He calmly explained to his father that he wouldn’t follow his ambitions. Additionally, he’d already planned to pause his education at the secondary level to pursue football full-time. This is demonstrated when he diverted his university entry exam fee to pay for a football academy.

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Rising Through the Ranks: Youth Career

Awoniyi began his football career at the Kwara Football Academy. He was one of the aspiring footballers who met Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho during his visit. The player was also spotted by Imperial Football Academy here.

Life wasn’t easy for him. At the time, he couldn’t afford to buy football boots and didn’t want to ask his parents to buy him a pair. He decided to collect his teammate’s torn football boots and repatch them.  

Even through such hardships, Awoniyi’s talents were obvious. His coach and mentor Garba Abdulrasaq Olojo supported and guided him. 

The owner of the academy convinced his parents to allow their son to move permanently to their facility to focus on football and education. Although it’s a difficult decision, they signed off on it and this was a vital move in his career. 

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Big Opportunity

Taiwo Awoniyi: Budding Nigerian Footballer’s Rise to European Football
Taiwo Awoniyi celebrating a goal in a game. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

In 2010, Taiwo’s team participated in a Coca-Cola Competition in Ibadan, Nigeria, where he was the best striker. He was invited to the United Kingdom and he went back home with awards. 

These appearances landed him a place in the junior side of the Nigerian national team. He made the squad that played in the U17 Africa Cup of Nations but never got a chance to play. 

Next came the FIFA U17 World Cup. He made the squad at the very last minute when a few players failed their medical. However, he didn’t get a starting chance on the team until Isaac Success got injured. 

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Awoniyi capitalized on his chance and by the end of the event, he’d scored nine goals and was a recognizable rising star.

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Europe Dream on the Line

Junior football competitions give budding footballers a chance to show their skills and Taiwo Awoniyi knew this going into the U17 FIFA World Cup. However, after his stunning performances, he never received a call from any European club and he almost lost hope. 

He went on and played for Nigeria at the U20 Africa Cup of Nations where he scored 3 goals and helped the team qualify for the U20 World Cup. 

Liverpool’s Calling

If any clubs needed more proof that Awoniyi was a great player, he showed them again and this time, Liverpool came calling. Imperial Soccer Academy couldn’t resist the offer even though they didn’t want him to go to a big club due to pressure. 

Unfortunately, he couldn’t secure a work permit in England and the Reds sent him on loan to several clubs including:

His loan spell at Union Berlin ended in a permanent transfer and Awoniyi finally got the chance to show his skills at the top level. He scored 15 goals in 31 appearances. This eventually provided him with a pathway back to the English Premier League. 

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Nottingham Forest

After Nottingham Forest gained promotion to the Premier League, they splashed money on Nigeria, buying him at a club-record fee of £17 million. So far, he’s made 12 appearances and scored 5 goals. 

International Career

Taiwo Awoniyi rose through the ranks. He represented Nigeria at the junior levels from the Africa Cup of Nations to the FIFA World Cup. In 2021, he debuted for the senior team during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and was part of the 2021 & 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

Taiwo Awoniyi’s journey is one of consistent growth. He’s faced plenty of challenges to get to where he is. Also, his conviction of knowing what he wanted to pursue played a big role.  

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