A touching interview in Nigeria’s daily sports paper, Complete Sports, with My People FC’s Sani Emmanuel, who has learned from Prophet TB Joshua that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give… Excerpts
Golden Eaglets striker Sani Shehu Emmanuel rose from the depths of obscurity to worldwide recognition when he came off the bench to score five goals and helped his team to second place at the just concluded U-17 World Cup.
In this interview with MIKE NDIDI, Emmanuel narrates his story from the squalor of a one-room apartment to life as an altar boy in Prophet T.B Joshua’s church and now, on the verge of a major breakthrough in professional football.
He regrets the death of his mother but remains grateful to the Synagogue Church of All Nations where he has found home and is desperate to help other kids out of poverty as soon as he makes it big in his chosen career.
Congratulations for winning the MVP award and Silver Shoe. How do you feel getting into this stage?
I am glad because I have always wished and dreamt that God would crown my effort with success though I was not happy we lost the cup.
Tell us about your background?
I am from Edo State, specifically I hail from Auchi in Etsako East Local Government Council. I was born and raised in Kano but my parents moved over to Abuja in 2003. My father is a Muslim but I am a Christian because I am now born into a Christian family.
What do you mean that you are born into a Christian family?
The man of God, Prophet T.B Joshua has been responsible for the up-keep of my whole family..
How did you make the U-17 National team?
I was playing for my church Synagogue Church of all Nations’ team, My People Football Club when I was invited to the national U-17 national team screening exercise after a friendly match with the U-17 team. But before now I played for a local team in Abuja from where I joined Abuja YSFON team. The same year I won a scholarship to Naval YSFON Academy in Calabar but I couldn’t complete my Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. I dropped out in S.S. 3.
How was your stay at the Academy in Calabar?
It was very brief and I returned to the Synagogue of All Nations. I am an Altar boy. The man of God, Senior Prophet T.B Joshua took an exceptional liking for me and offered to help me.
Tell us about your family?
My mother and father got separated when I was still a very small boy but unfortunately my mother is late now. She died when I was still very young. We are nine in number and I am the seventh child in the family of which five are boys and four are girls.
How many of your brothers play football?
All of us, except my elder brother who the man of God, Prophet T.B Joshua is sponsoring in school. Although none of them has attained the level God has taken me to, I still have one of my brothers who is a goalkeeper and he is presently with My People FC and the rest are staying with my father in Abuja.
What is your father’s occupation?
My father is a tailor and we were struggling to survive. You won’t believe it that we hardly fed every day. We lived in a deplorable place in Maraba in Abuja. My father does his tailoring business in a small hut in the front of our house where he puts his sewing machine every day. I never attended Primary School in my life and it was when I went to Calabar that they put me in school. So I never enjoyed any basic education like my fortunate colleagues. Prophet T.B Joshua is today catering for my family.
You were described as a super-substitute, how do you feel about this?
God was very faithful to me and each time I was introduced into a match I always had the conviction that I would score.
Your predecessors, the 2007 Golden Eaglets won the FIFA U- 17 World Cup in Korea and were rewarded with houses and national honours. What will you wish to be honoured with, even though you only managed to win silver.
I can’t begin to mention. Before I came to the U-17 National team like I earlier said I am from a very poor family. But thank God today, He has used the nation (Nigeria) to bless me. I will continue to be very grateful for getting the opportunity to play in the U- 17 National team.
If you are rewarded with 100 million naira for winning the U- 17 World Cup, what will you do with the money?
Firstly, I will go to the orphanage and donate a substantial sum out of the money because I passed through a lot of difficulties growing up as a child. I couldn’t feed and I could not go to school because my father could not afford my school fees and I have always prayed and wished that one day I could touch the lives of the less privileged ones.
Have you been contacted by any agent for a foreign deal?
Prophet Joshua had earlier sponsored me to Europe for trials. I was in Sweden for four months before I came back to join the national U-17. I have always wished for a football career in Europe and I belief now that I have distinguished myself in the U- 17 national team, offers will start coming to begin a soccer career in Europe.
Which Coach has had the biggest influence on your football career?
All the coaches I have played under.
What is your greatest regret and who did you missed the most that you would have loved to share this moment of joy with you?
My regret is that my mother is not alive to see what I have turned to be in life.
What is your best meal?
Rice and stew.
What are your favourite cars?
I am not a car freak and it has never crossed my mind to own a car anyway.
Thank you for talking to us.
The pleasure is mine, sir.
SOURCE: Complete Sports