Boniface: From patched boots to Bundesliga

New Bayern Leverkusen signing, Victor Boniface, has never been shy of sharing his compelling grass-to-grace story and new revelations have emerged of how the Nigerian striker first caught the eye of scouts while playing in Akure, the Ondo State capital, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

The 22-year-old joined German giants Leverkusen on a five-year deal worth €20m with an additional €7.5m allocated for add-ons and contractual clauses after just a year with Union SG in Belgium. It is the most expensive sale in the history of Union, dwarfing the €7m received from Club Brugge for Casper Nielsen last year.

Apparently, Boniface always caught attention, and that was how the Bundesliga move materialised after his remarkable display against Xabi Alonso’s team in the UEFA Europa League last season. The former Liverpool player showered praises on the Nigerian, labeling him a terrific player and a serious threat to opposition defences.

Some 11 years ago in Akure, the Ondo State capital, Boniface’s exceptional talent began to bloom during a scouting competition at his school, T-Chris International School, before moving on to join Royal Gold Soccer Academy, also in Akure and later on Real Saphire FC, where he eventually secured a move to Bodo Glimt in Norway.

Boniface’s coach at Royal Gold Soccer Academy, Blessing Johnson, also known as Perez, told PUNCH Sports Extra about the qualities of the player on-and-off the pitch.

“We had a scouting competition and he won the best player award during the tournament. That was how I brought him into my team,” Johnson told our correspondent.

“After some time, his grandmother approached me about the difficulty of transporting him to training but we found a way around it and he continued. Some years later, he also emerged as the best player in another competition.

“He has a very good attitude and I think that is reflective of his upbringing. It was not difficult to nature him until he joined Real Sapphire. At the beginning, he was not all that strong, but he has everything needed to play football. He was very hardworking and I am happy for his progress.”

Johnson also said the player had been a huge inspiration for players at the academy.

“He has been in touch with us since he travelled abroad and has been supportive with the donation of training equipment for the team. He is also an inspiration to our players. He was present at one U-13 competition we had a few years ago. Hopefully, in another time, he will have more time to interface with the crop of players we have,” the coach said.

Part of Boniface’s compelling story was how he struggled at the start of his journey in Europe after he lost his mother and suffered an injury two weeks after moving to Norway in 2019. His passion for the game diminished and thoughts of quitting was next on his mind.

“I gave up at that time, as I was no longer interested in playing football,” Boniface told OJB Sports.

“There was a period when I lost my mum, I also had a bad injury that was going to keep me out for six to eight months, and I lost a good offer from Club Brugge.

“I lost interest in football, I forgot about my diets, I began to eat everything, I started living a normal life, I just wanted to be happy, I started partying and drinking.

“I don’t drink normally, but I started it because I was depressed.”

But since overcoming the challenge, Boniface has moved from a €2m player to a €20m man, scoring nine goals in the Belgium Jupiler Pro League last season as well as six goals in the UEFA Europa League, one of them winning him the prestigious Europa Goal of The Season award.

“It’s a special opportunity that I really wanted to take advantage of. I experienced the atmosphere here in the stadium myself, and even then, I could guess the capacities that this club has,“ he told Leverkusen’s official website.

“After our talks, I now know: This is a top club with a great team! I’m really looking forward to playing football in this environment and I want to play my part in Bayer 04’s future success.”

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