For Justina Aniefiok, growing up the streets of Bariga in Lagos was really tough for her as a young girl who was determined to achieve success. She, therefore, had to live with her aunt because her parents were separated while she was a child. Bariga is noted for notorious activities such as cultism, gang raping, street fighting, drug consumption but she knew she must be different if she wants to be successful in life
I discovered I could play football very well while I was in the primary school but the talent started blossoming while I got to the secondary school.
I picked up the courage and confidence while playing with the boys on my street but my aunt was so worried and that made her beat me whenever I play football.
She felt I could be influenced into living a negative life that is associated with Bariga but I was ready to prove her wrong.
GTBank Principals’ Cup
Due to the pressure from my aunt, I nearly quit playing football but the GTBank-Lagos State Principal Cup provided me the platform to showcase my talent.
I will stay back in school and train hard because I wanted to make the school team as my school CMS Girls High School was noted for producing top football stars.
My efforts were rewarded as I made the school team and lost in the final of the 2010 edition.
The next year, we lost the final again to Ikotun Girls and it was so painful because I was the captain of the team.
In the finals of the 2012 edition, we were primed to win the trophy after eliminating our top rivals in the knockout stage but that day became the worst day of my life because we gave all our best but it was unfortunate that we lost 2-1 to Kuje Senior Secondary School at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.
Foray into photography
Besides the GTBank-Lagos State Principal Cup, the competition also has two other segments namely the Tournament Ambassadors Programme (TAP) and Camp GTBank.
During the TAP in Lagos, late coach Stephen Keshi prior to winning the 2013 AFCON was the guest speaker who enjoined us to embrace education with football. In fact, his words still ring bells in my head. He said: “You cannot play football forever, discover your other passion and elevate it education.”
It was that day I fell in love with photography as we all scrambled to take pictures with him but unfortunately, I couldn’t snap with him. I wished I had a professional camera that day.
His words motivated me to work harder throughout the competition as I was very determined to make the Camp GTBank where all the best players from the tournaments will be camped in Ibadan for one-week training with top coaches in the country.
At the 2012 edition final, I wept profusely for losing three consecutive finals as I felt like dying that day because I couldn’t lead CMS Girls to lift the trophy. It was at that point, I met Mr. Tobi Emmanuel, a Sports journalist who gave me his complimentary card. I told him I was done with football and he said no problem but I should call him.
For three months I was devastated, no passion for the game again but I was just stagnant in life as I couldn’t do anything.
I summoned the courage and called Mr. Tobi who enrolled me at Lagos State Vocational School, Ikorodu, where I studied Photography. He also helped me secure my Industrial Attachment placement at his office, New Telegraph where I blossomed under the tutelage of Mr. Suleiman Hussain.
Education, football and photography
With his help, I enrolled for JAMB and gained admission into Yaba College of Technology where I’m currently studying Mass Communication. His wife paid my school fees and that inspired me back to football. So, I had to combine my educational pursuits with football and photography.
During the days I have jobs to do, I just have to wake up early enough to report and get the job done, train with the school team at noon and attend classes later in the day. That’s basically how the day with all three goes.
My determination to succeed spurred Mr. Tobi to launch an appeal fund on Facebook where his friends, footballers, sports journalists raised money and bought me a professional camera, a Nikon D3400. In the course of these fundraising, I received two awards. The first was Nightingale Award and another award from Ladies In Sports which came with an educational grant. I also had Mrs. Funke Nabila, wife of Oritshefemi paying for my school fees for my Year 2.
I also remembered when I was asked to cover the arrival of the 2017 Big Brother housemates as my picture graced the cover of the New Telegraph; that was a great achievement for me.
I’m already planning my first programme which was facilitated by Mr. Tobi in collaboration with the Lagos Chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN). It is a one-day free Photography training programme billed for the SWAN Secretariat at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
It is called Justina and Friends which the assembly of the best sports photo editors in the industry. The facilitators include Akin Farinto (Photo Editor, DStv/SuperSports), Dele Ojo (Photo Editor, The Sun), Femi Adebesin-Kuti (Photo Editor, The Guardian), Ganiyiu Yusuf (Photo Editor, Complete Sports), Suleiman Hussain (Photo Editor, New Telegraph) Segun Ogunfeyitimi (Sengol Pix), Suleiman Adebayo (Pooja Media), Latifa Adebayo, Victor Modo ( Modzero ) and Oni Afolabi (NBBF media officer).
I want to go for more training to equip myself. I missed the opportunity to learn from TY Bello as I applied for the 2018 Days of Dorcas Photography Competition and Workshop sponsored by GTBank but I was later dropped after being selected.
I see myself playing professional football and become the best in photography like T.Y Bello. I would love to take shots of the President and as many of the big names in the world. I want to cover the next FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022.
I believe I can achieve all these with self-belief, focus and determination. I have learned never underrate or look down on anybody.