Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun has opened up on an encounter with a witch who put him on the path to reconnect to Nigeria and play for the national team.
Born to a Nigerian father and a German mother, Leon Balogun was born and brought up in Germany with little knowledge about Nigeria.
In a piece for The Players’ Tribune, the Super Eagles defender opened up how he made the journey to reconnect to Nigeria.
The 29-year-old told the story of how his sister led him to see a witch who diagnosed a hole in his aura and how he was still hurting from the death of a loved him.
The loved one turned out to be his grandmother from Nigeria, whom he never met before she died.
“I was amazed. I hadn’t thought about my grandma that much since she passed when I was 16 years old,” the Brighton & Hove Albion defender wrote on his piece for The Players’ Tribune.
“But, this lady was right. My grandma’s death had a huge effect on me, and I had never even met my grandma, who lived in Nigeria. That’s the part that was wild to me.
“This woman, though, she saw it. She told me I had to heal my soul, my heart before I could become the player I wanted to be.
“After we left, I didn’t completely understand if my experience with her was successful. The most important thing that came out of that day was that it got me thinking about my grandma. When I got home, my mind went straight back to the day my dad told me the news.
“Because I had never met her, my dad didn’t tell me right when it happened. He actually waited a few days — that’s how distant my relationship was from her. She only spoke Yoruba. So when we talked on the phone when I was little, my dad would try to translate for us. He had never taken me to Nigeria, for reasons he didn’t make clear to me, and I only ever saw photos of my grandma.”
The grief he felt over the death of his paternal grandmother led him to know more and reconnect with his Nigerian roots.
Reconnection with Nigeria
The reconnection was complete when in 2014 he received a call from the Super Eagles boss Stephen Keshi which turned out to be an invitation to the national team.
“Even after I overcame some of the injury issues I had as a teenager and began playing regular minutes in the 2. Bundesliga and Bundesliga, that thing — the part of my soul that I had been told to heal all those years ago — was still missing from my life,” the defender further wrote in the piece.
“In 2014, I was coming to the end of my contract with Fortuna Dusseldorf. I wasn’t sure where I would go next. There was uncertainty in my life, and from time to time I would think of the witch. What did she mean, ‘heal my soul?’
“One night in March, my phone rang. It was a Nigerian number … it was Stephen Keshi, the Nigerian National Team manager. I was sweating as soon as he introduced himself. I wanted him to say the words I had thought about for so long. He spoke for awhile about how he wasn’t totally familiar with me, but he liked how I played.
“Then he said it: ‘I would like to invite you to be a Super Eagle’.
“Those words … they meant so much to me. It meant validation for every step of my footballing journey. It meant happiness for my family. Most of all, it meant an opportunity to go to Nigeria.
And that … that was everything to me.”