For those that are conversant with the beautiful game in the country in the ’80s and ’90s, former Nigerian international, Taiwo Oloyede readily comes to mind. Oloyede tells Kunle Adewale how football stalled his dream of becoming a lawyer and his regrets of not being able to play professional football abroad.
His playing football was not by accident because, according to him, football runs in the family. His late father, apart from being a former team manager of Stationery Stores of Lagos was an ardent supporter of the Lagos darling club. He was also a former secretary of the Ikeja Football Divisional Association. His elder brother, Jide, also played for the Flying Eagles in 1985. So for Taiwo, football was inborn.
Oloyede started showing traces of his football talent while in primary school at Lagos Mainland Primary School, Fadeyi, and by the time he got admission into CMS Grammar School, Bariga, there was no doubt about what he wanted to do with his life – to become a professional footballer.
Losing in the finals of the Principals’ Cup to St. Gregory’s College in 1979 was something that really hurt Oloyede. It was something he could not easily shake off for a long time and even when CMS eventually won the trophy, the following year it was not enough consolation, until 1983 when he captained the Grammarians to win it in 1983.
Describing life while growing up, the former IBWA player recalled how he and his brother, Jide, who was a supporter of NEPA FC, while he (Taiwo) supported Stationery Stores placed bets with their meal each time NEPA was playing Stores and the winner will take the whole food.
“Anytime Stores lost to NEPA, it was always a tough time in the house because nobody went near my father who was an ardent Stores fan and the least mistake at home would attract his wrath,” Oloyede recalled.
Aside from dreaming of playing professional football, the former Stationery Stores captain had the ambition of studying law but his unflinching passion for football stalled his ambition of becoming a lawyer.
“As soon as I finished my secondary school, I picked up a job with International Bank for West Africa, while I was also playing for the bank. I was with IBWA for eight years while I enrolled with the Lagos State University studying law but because football was taking the better part of my life, I could not concentrate on my studies and I eventually traded my ambition of becoming a lawyer for football with the aim of becoming a professional footballer,” the coach of Eko Akete FC said.
Oloyede however said he had no regret not becoming a lawyer. “I have no regret at all because I have to choose between becoming a lawyer and a footballer and I chose the later,” he said.
Reminded that it would have been an advantage to him if he had combined the two just like the former Green Eagles winger, Adokie Amesimeka, who rose to become a justice in Rivers State, he said the trend of playing professional football abroad overwhelmed him.
“Combining the two was never a priority because I felt playing football, working in the bank and combining it with my education would be a hard nut to crack. Playing football and banking job was already taking its toll on me, so I felt it would be too strenuous to start attending to class work again. So I decided to concentrate on my banking job and football,” he noted.
After IBWA was disbanded in 1988, he joined Stationery Stores, a team he would have joined five years earlier when the club was actually scrambling for his signature but according to him, “I felt I was too young to play for a big club like Stores and thought I should cut my teeth with a smaller club like IBWA and the fact that I was working as a banker also informed my decision not to join Stores earlier. I eventually played for Stores for five years and won all the trophies in Nigeria with them but lost in the semifinals of the CAF Champions League to Zamalek of Egypt in 1993”
On why he did not play professional football abroad as he had wished, he said: “Twice I went for trials abroad but it didn’t really work out. I had my first trial in Holland in 1997 but youthful exuberance cost me the deal that was brokered by Segun Odegbami. Two years later, I went to Dubai for another go at playing professional football but the greed of my agent bungled the opportunity. I had already passed the trial; it was just for the agreement to be signed but my agent insisted on collecting 70 per cent while I will take 30 and that was why I rejected the Dubai offer. And the injury that I sustained while playing for the Super Eagles in 1991 finally ended my ambition of playing abroad because I was already at my peak then,” he said.
Oloyede broke into national limelight in 1989 when while playing for Stationery Stores the first 11 of the team was invited to the national team. Nine of them were invited to the Flying Eagles while the other two were invited to the senior national team and Oloyede was picked as the captain of the Flying Eagles.
Oloyede had so many memorable moments during his playing career but two of them will readily come to mind. The first was in 1988 when he helped Stores to escape relegation in a game against the defunct ACB of Lagos. It was a must-win game. The other being when he won the FA Cup with Julius Berger against Katsina United, scoring the golden goal to lift the cup for Bridge Boys, which was the first time the FA Cup was decided on a golden goal rule.
There was always the other side of the coin. Oloyede will always rue the day he was dropped from the famous Flying Eagles Darman Miracle team to Saudi ’89 World Youth Championship.
“I was on the brink of going with the team to Saudi Arabia when I sustained an injury that shattered the dream and the other one was when I lost a penalty that would have secured a FA Cup final ticket for Stationery Stores against BCC Lions of Gboko at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos in 1989,” the former junior international recalled.
At the replayed game in Bauchi, Oloyede scored two goals, which he claimed were ‘good goals’ but were disallowed because there was a conspiracy by the powers that be that the 1988 FA Cup should be won by a northern team, saying it was one moment that he would take to his grave.
In spite of the ups and downs of life, Oloyede believes he is comfortable with life. “Some of my mates are late today; some are not up to what I am worth, so I give glory to God for who I am today, most especially for my fame. Everywhere I go today people hail me, ‘Up Super, Up Super’. I may not have all the money but I am very comfortable,” he stressed.
The man who later played for BCC Lions among many other numerous clubs said his only son never showed interest in football.
“The boy did not really show interest in playing football rather it was the two of the girls that have shown interest in the round leather game and I am really encouraging them.”
If it were possible that the hands of the clock could be turned back Oloyede would have loved to play profession football abroad, even if it means playing for just six months.
“My three months stay in Dubai opened my eyes on how professional football was being run and what professional footballers enjoy and are exposed to. When we were in the national camp, my colleagues playing abroad do tell me their experiences and I could not stop wishing I was also playing abroad,” he admitted.
Late Haruna Ilerika was noted for his dribbling skills and it was this great player that Oloyede idolised while growing up. “When I was young I was called Ilerika because of the way I waltzed through opponents which was synonymous with the late Stores idol. But later I adopted late Muda Lawal’s style,” he said.