A STAR Is BORN/DISCOVERED. COMPLETE SPORTS' RADIO SHOW, SPORTS PLANET ANCHORMAN, TUNDE KOIKI INTERVIEWS A CERTAIN SEVEN YEAR OLD BELGIAN-BORN NIGERIAN FOOTBALL WHIZ KID, SAMUEL DUMBILI AND HIS PARENTS.
SPORTS PLANET: How are you, Samuel? Could you tell me your full names?
Samuel Dumbili: Samuel Chukwuebuka Dumbili.
SP: How old are you?
Samuel: I am seven years old.
SP: You are a Nigerian who lives in the Netherlands, is that correct?
Samuel: Yes, very correct.
SP: You play football?
Samuel: Yes, I do.
SP: So, how good are you in football?
Samuel: Very good.
SP: When you say very good, how good?
Samuel: I’m a hundred percent good in football.
SP: I hear you play for two clubs in the Netherlands, what clubs are those?
Samuel: The two clubs I play for are PSV Eindhoven and Willem II.
SP: How did you get to like football? Where did you pick that up from?
Samuel: I started right at home and my parents also gave me the go ahead to play football.
SP: How long have you been playing for these two clubs?
Samuel: I’ve been playing for these two clubs since five years ago.
SP: That means you started playing for them when you were only two years old, that’s quite interesting. Do you have any ambitions? Do you have any plan in the future to play for may be PSV Eindhoven or Ajax Amsterdam?
Samuel: I would really love to play for PSV Eindhoven in future.
SP: Why not Ajax?
Samuel: I don’t have that clue (Tunde bursts into heavy laughter).
SP: So, when you are older, would you like to play for Nigeria?
Samuel: No (He answers emphatically).
SP: Why don’t you want to play for Nigeria?
Samuel: They are not good (Tunde laughs out loud).
SP: They are not that bad really, but would you like to play for the Netherlands national team?
Samuel: Yes, I would love to.
SP: If I asked you very nicely, if your mum asked you very nicely and your dad also asked you very nicely to play for Nigeria, would you consider it?
Samuel: Yes, I would really consider it.
SP: Are you any good in school?
Samuel: I’m a little bit good in school.
SP: It’s okay but you know education is very important, right?
Samuel: Yes, I know that.
SP: Do you have any friends in school?
Samuel: Yes, I have many friends in school.
SP: Very many, that means you are very popular in school then. Apart from football, do you play any other sport?
Samuel: No, I don’t.
SP: Have you won any football awards?
SAMUEL: No, I haven’t won any football awards yet.
SP: So, don’t worry, I’m sure you will win lots of awards very soon. So, thank you for talking to me, Samuel.
Samuel: Thank you.
SP: I will talk to you some other time, ok.
TUNDE KOIKI'S INTERVIEW SESSION WITH SAMUEL’S PARENTS
SP: Thank you very much for finding time to talk to us.
Sam's dad: You are welcome.
SP: Could you for the record please introduce yourself?
Sam's dad: My name is Joseph Dumbili, I’m officially from Delta State but I live in Belgium with my family. I’m blessed with four children and I’m Samuel’s father.
SP: And you are Samuel’s mother, right?
Sam's mum: Yes, I’m Shunisa Tilara Clook and I’m married to Joseph Dumbili and we live in Belgium. We have been married for thirteen years now.
SP: You have a very interesting little boy, Samuel. Could you tell me about him?
Sam's mum: Well, Samuel is a born footballer. I can say that he has been playing football since he was a year old and a couple of years ago, we registered him in a football team and he started playing seriously when he was like five years old. Since he has been playing, he has been so good to the extent that six football clubs came and asked about him. I mean top football clubs from Belgium and Holland came asking about him.
SP: Do you remember the names of those six clubs?
Sam's mum: Yes, I do. Feyenoord, Mechelen, Dasol, Anderlecht, Leeshaw, Saint-Wuiveen and FC Gent. PSV also came for him and we checked out what was the best opportunity for him. Not for us but for him to develop his skills further. My husband and I concluded on him going to PSV because they had the best plan for his future. They also have a very good football academy.
SP: (Tunde faces Sam’s dad) Did you play football when you were younger?
Sam's dad: Yes. Actually, I was my school’s captain when I was in secondary school. When I was also in primary school, I played and I can still remember a particular goal I scored back then. I was actually a footballer but I participated in athletics as I did the 100 and 200 metre races but because of the condition in Nigeria, I wasn’t privileged to play. But when I got to Europe, I only played café football and I played for Flooky in Mool.
SP: Which means that Samuel got his talent from you?
Sam's dad: I think it’s a combination of both parents because without my wife, I couldn’t have been able to produce Samuel so we believe that he took from both of us. But there is something unique about him that is making us keep our fingers crossed.
My father in-law’s name is Samuel while my dad’s name is also Samuel, so when we had him, we said let’s share a memory of them because they are both late and we gave him Samuel. Most people always say that their spirits go with him, actually, we are Christians but we can never tell because we don’t know fully what is happening in life. So, I think he took it from both of us and also from his late grandfathers. Before he was conceived in his mother’s womb, God knew him and one thing that is so funny about him, I use the word funny because when he was about one or two years, he already loved everything about football.
The first present he got from one of my cousins in London was a pair of football boots which he has not even started using. Then, we started begging him to wait until he was five years old because he actually wanted to start playing when he was three years old but the official age for football is five years. The first day I called to fix him with FC Turnouet, I told them that if they could accept him, they would have a footballer for life and I knew what he was capable of. And I know what he is still going to do.
SP: So, why did both of you encourage him to play football? You know most Nigerian parents are usually like go and read your books, go to school so that you can become a doctor and engineer.
Sam's dad: For me, I chose my life, I decided to go to Europe, my parents have always had this kind of liberal settings for us where you allow a kid to show forth who he will be and you inspire and encourage the kid by putting in resources for him to succeed. When we saw it in Samuel that he wanted to play football and apart from the fact that football rakes in good money, we knew that he would be better off being himself than being forced to be somebody else.
Like myself, I’m a Christian, I’ve always wanted to be a pastor, I go around everything but I still come back to the same thing. So, to find his own happiness, we will allow him to excel in his own way, otherwise, we would be manipulating him. Then, he would be living my life and his destiny would be left stranded and a lot of people have gone to their graves not fulfilling their dreams, so he can have his dream, he’s a human being. The moment he was separated from his mother, the moment he was born, he has the right to his choice of life and that is what it is.
SP: Football can be a dangerous sport at times with the injuries, the travels and all the glitz and glamour, how do you plan to ensure that Samuel gets proper guidance and proper family support so that he has a great career?
Sam's mum: When we went to talk to PSV, they said they wanted to take him to their academy, take care of all of his bills and he would stay with them. I was telling my husband that I don’t think it’s a good idea, he’s still too small, it’s very exciting for him but he doesn’t really understand what it means. We are ready but we will change our working schedule so that we will take him to the football academy and bring him back home every day. That’s what we decided to do as we are trying to protect him because he is still young and needs to be around his friends and go to the same school. When he is a bit more matured like say around eleven or twelve years, he can understand what he really means and he can decide for himself and say ok, I’m going to the academy to stay and we will let him know that we are supporting him.
SP: It’s interesting because you have three other beautiful children if I may say and Samuel is the one that is showing plenty of promise now, are prepared to make sacrifices to ensure that not only Samuel but his other siblings reach their maximum potential?
Sam's mum: Of course, we are even doing that because one of them also has athletics skills and we make sure that we have the time to take her to her lessons. That’s why my husband and I have joined hands together to do that, if I bring Samuel to the academy, he’ll take his sister to her athletics lessons. We are very ready to make sure that all of them reach their maximum potential.
SP: The academy system here in Nigeria is poor, we don’t really have academies as good as you have in the Netherlands, how important is it for you to see your children, Samuel and his other siblings have a balanced upbringing, one that emphasizes not only on their sporting talent but also education as well?
Sam's dad: If I can use my life experience to kind of shed light on that, I was not a dummy when I was in school in Nigeria, I had a promising future and was one of the best in my classes but because of financial difficulties, I wasn’t able to go beyond O.N.D (Ordinary National Diploma) and having had to step down for my parents to be able to pay my younger ones’ school fees, one incident I remember very well is my searching for job in Lagos, it was quite very difficult.
One thing I will say is that academics (Education) is not only an investment but they say it is a life span of every human being who wants to have a future and as a parent, I’m privileged to have them in Europe, so I could have brought them down to Africa to live or if they were born here, I would still have invested the same thing on their academics but my fear is that the Nigerian system has all the academies for the children to go to school but after school, there is no place for them to invest what they have learnt, their talent and everything, so for Samuel and the other ones, we have made it a point of duty that if they don’t do their housework, there would be no sports, if they don’t do well in their classes, no sport as well.
Sports is very essential because it could be what they are born to do but they need academics because they must be able to read, write and defend themselves should in case from what we see most sports people retire at 35 or 40 years, so after their retirement, one should be able to fall back unto a profession that is being built based on academics. One thing I would say to Nigerians is that whatever happens, let the children be educated because it helps.
SP: I have spoken to Gerald and Samuel, intelligent children and they speak excellent Dutch and good English too but from the little I’ve spoken to Samuel, he said he is more interested in playing for Holland rather than Nigeria. When that time comes, hopefully, in a few years’ time, would you be influencing his decision?
Sam's dad: I wouldn’t want to influence his decision, what I would have wanted to do if I was to have a say over who he plays for, I’m proud to be a Nigerian. I wouldn’t lie about that, it wouldn’t be something wrong for Nigeria to win their first Senior World Cup and my son would be the one lifting it up. But my fear is that Nigerian football has too much politics and influence which ought not to be. If we can source for the best, then it would be ok but like a place like the Netherlands, I don’t know how they call it but normally, we have dual citizenship but Samuel has three citizenships because I’m a Nigerian, he’s a Nigerian, Belgian and Dutch so he could choose which of the three to play for. And honestly speaking, so far, two of those countries are interested in him which are Belgium and Holland.
So, when it comes to playing for Nigeria, I will do my best to influence it, I won’t lie to you, let’s face reality because I would like to be honest. I wish he could play for Nigeria but I notice something in football that African players have a lesser privilege of being bought abroad. If a club is buying ten players, they give Africa like two slots out of them while the others come from Europe and we were discussing recently about the chances of a Nigerian winning the world’s best footballer of the year, it’s not that it’s impossible but the whites would always want to influence it because the white people believe that if the money remains in their midst, it will boost their economy.
One of the things I would have encouraged Nigeria to do is to try and win Samuel over, it doesn’t mean giving him money, it just means giving him a standard which will make him competitive with Europeans.
SP: (Tunde faces Sam’s mum) I know you have plenty to say regarding that when the time comes. I’m sure when the time comes for your children to make that decision, would you like to influence that as well?
Sam's mum: Not really. I think my husband has said it all but in the mean time, he is still young but when he is older, he can decide for himself where he wants to be.
SP: Final words from both of you. There are lots of parents out there who have really talented children and probably still insisting that they must go to school, but you are doing something particularly unique for your children. If you had words of advice for these parents, what would you be telling them?
Sam's mum: I would tell them that if your child has a dream, you should almost put your own life aside and focus on your child’s dream because that’s what my husband and I have done. When Samuel got this contract, I changed my job and my husband changed his too, so we can be able to support him because once he sees one of his parents’ beside him, he is more focused, happy and can perform better.
I know that the resources in Africa are very poor because of their circumstances but we as parents should do everything possible that our children get a good education and thereafter, good future. After the football academy, it is also important that our children do their very best in school.
Parents should monitor their children’s academics because the football clubs also know that football is only for a certain time and you can’t play forever. You can even be injured, so you should have something to fall back on. I will just encourage parents that if they have the resources to support their children in both their education and sporting careers, they shouldn’t hesitate to do that.
Sam's dad: On my own side, I will begin by saying we shouldn’t neglect football or sports and say it’s a lazy man’s stuff like they used to tell us those days, you must come home, don’t go out to play football, do your house work first.
I will say that football can buy a child’s life over and give him a future but one thing I would always say to parents is that in every child, there is a champion. For the child that the child out of all the time you spent with your wife or husband, it’s only that child that came out as a product out of five million sperms, then there is something about that child. We should focus on the child, not on our own lost dreams because most parents would want their children to be lawyers, doctors because they themselves wanted to be in those professions but they couldn’t make it so they want to build an idol of themselves in their children.
I would say parents should give every child the right to have an entity because they are only going to live once. If we have not been privileged to achieve more, let’s support them and one thing I would say is that if the system does not have what it takes for your child to excel, you as parents have to create that for your child. You don’t need a football academy in Nigeria for that to happen, what you need to do is put your child in an environment where he can show his talent and if no one wants to buy his talent, you sell the talent for the child.
And one more thing for the Nigerian government, we have potentials in every Nigerian child in the village, on the streets and everywhere so let’s go search them out because there is something that is missing if each child is not utilizing his potential. Let’s see in every child something good. I also hope Samuel becomes a great motivator of kids in future. Honestly speaking, I think we have a lot to do in Nigeria and I just hope parents can start it because if we want to see change, let it start from us.
SP: Thank you so much for your time.
Sam's dad: Thank you so much for coming to speak with us. We appreciate your newspaper, Complete Sports.
SPORTS PLANET is a news and magazine radio sports show produced by COMPLETE SPORTS STUDIOS. You can listen to it on our partner stations on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can also listen to past episodes, including this interview with SAMUEL DUMBILI AND PARENTS on our Podcast. Download the Stitcher Radio Podcast app on your mobile phones and search for Sports Planet to listen.