Former Premier League stars Odion Ighalo and Brown Ideye are the most recent players who escaped the notorious Lagos ghetto of Ajegunle thanks to what they could do on a football pitch.
Before them, there were the likes of Tarila Okorowanta, Emmanuel Amuneke, Samson Siasia and Jonathan Akpoborie from this jungle smack in the heart of Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, home of almost 20 million people and counting.
Shooting Stars exciting youngster Sunday Faleye told SCORENigeria he believes the tough life in Ajegunle will soon also be history for him because of what he can do with a football.
He was born and grew up in Orege, Ajegunle, around Boundary Road Apapa.
“It was very rough, tough, very bad. I just thank God I am out of the area, life there is very, very bad, killings, violence, drugs, crime, fraudsters,” he told SCORENigeria
“I was almost tempted to be part of this crowd by some close friends, but my handlers and football took me away.”
His first Guardian Angel was Efe Elutade, whose Freestansport International FC have taken Falaye and other talented youths off the dangerous streets of Ajegunle.
His next Guardian Angel was “my big daddy” Jonathan Akpoborie, who also came out from the gutters of Ajegunle to go on to play for several top German clubs including Wolfsburg.
The former Nigeria international striker made it possible for the youngster to try out at one of Nigeria’s foremost clubs, Shooting Stars.
“For the first training with the main team, I scored a goal, it was a little bit special as I placed the ball beyond the goalkeeper after a good combination play,” he remembered with some pride.
“The next day, in my second training, I got a hat-trick and a contract.”
He is blessed with superb technique, packs a decent shot and loves to drive through defences at full throttle.
‘Jah-bless’ got off to a flying start on his debut in the NPFL for the youthful 3SC side and now has six goals and provided four assists for the Ibadan club.
“It has been up and down, tough because of coping with the pressure fighting relegation. This has made me a better player a lot faster.
“My best game so far was against Ifeanyiubah in Nnewi, I scored and I was everywhere even though we eventually lost 2-1.”
Ifeanyiubah coach Yaw Preko, former Ghana international striker who distinguished himself at Belgian club Anderlecht, took note of the young forward with bullets in his boots.
“He tormented my defenders, he is so full of tricks,” remarked the young Ghanaian coach.
“He is such a player that defenders hardly blink an eye whenever he’s within your zone.
“I took particular notice of him when we played 3SC here at Nnewi and he committed our defenders into making several mistakes.
“He’s such a player any coach would love to have in his team. He has physical presence and shoots pretty well”.
Former Shooting Stars coach Gbenga Ogunbote is also a huge admirer of Falaye.
“As a coach, I easily notice a good player when I see one,” said the Enyimba coach
“When we played Shooting Stars, one of their players, Sunday Falaye was a standout player.
“He was always quick to the ball, unpredictable in his movements and decisions and these qualities to me are good assets any coach would want in a player.
“But if his attitude off the pitch equally reflects what he does on the pitch, then, his career as a footballer, is heading for the heavens”.
He will be 19 in November and already this son of a bricklayer who made six credits in secondary school is clear on what he wants.
“Football can do many good things for me, like it did for Lionel Messi and Neymar, I believe the game will do mine for me,” he told SCORENigeria
“First, I wish it to take me out of Nigeria, be a top player in the world, stand among great men and most importantly, use my talent to help others.”
Big dreams, you would say, but they could soon be a reality going by what he has shown so far on the football pitch.