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€81m Napoli deal: How Lagos hawker became Africa’s costliest footballer

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Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen’s humble beginnings from Olusosun, the Lagos area famed for its dumpsite, to the ambience of one of Europe’s oldest cities, Naples, famed for its wealth of historical monuments, is truly one of football’s Cinderella tales, reports ’TOSIN OLUWALOWO

On Friday, Napoli officially announced the signing of Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen from Ligue 1 side Lille on a five-year deal worth €81 million plus add-ons.

Aside from the mega-money move making Osimhen the most expensive African footballer ever, the forward, according to close sources, will earn a whopping €4.5 million annually – the highest-ever by a Nigerian footballer – as salary at the Italian giants.

The 21-year-old, now regarded as one of the hottest youngsters in global football – after a phenomenal rise in two seasons at modest Belgian side Charleroi and Lille – never had the best of beginnings while growing up.

Living in one of the many makeshift houses around the Olusosun dumpsite in Lagos, Osimhen and his family had a hellish time trying to cope with the environmental and health hazards posed by the dumpsite, noted for its emission of thick smokes, foul smell, and routine fire outbreaks.

The 100-acre Olusosun landfill, which receives up to 10,000 tons of rubbish each day, is regarded as one of the largest dumpsites in Africa. And it’s also a hideout for criminals, who hide dangerous weapons and hard drugs inside the massive dumpsite.

Living under these terrible conditions posed enough headache for the footballer’s family, but at just six, Osimhen, last child among seven siblings, lost his mother, while his father lost his job, leaving him and his siblings in the dark world of uncertainty.

Insecurity, poverty, and the perennial fear of eviction by the Lagos State Government stared his family in the face.

The setback, however, didn’t deter the teenager, who made lemonade from the lemons life threw at him: he opted to hawk sachet water, popularly known as ‘pure water,’ on the streets of Lagos.

“I come from a place where so many dreams have died but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t give up irrespective of my situation. So, I was forced to go out and get myself a life,” Osimhen said.

“In Lagos, they sell water (bottle or sachet) which is the easiest, but the hardest because you have to run and give somebody the water and collect money.”

Running on the ever-busy Lagos roads chasing passengers was the perfect training for Osimhen, who turns 22 in December, on the way to stardom. And he combined this with street football.

But while hawking put food on the family’s table, street football didn’t, then.

The skinny up-and-coming footballer eventually caught the attention of the country’s U-17 coaches and scouts, who selected him for the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile, but not without a story.

“Getting into camp was a different life, a different story,” Osimhen told Elegbete TV.

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