Haruna Babangida- the Future of Football
A REPORT by Joaquin Bueno
|At the age of 15, what were you doing in
your life? Some of us were going to a regular school like any other young man. Others of
us played football, and continued to fantasize about one day being able to play for the
great teams that we idolize so much. Many young men at the age of 15 have enough problems
dealing with the beginnings of manhood and the end of adolescent innocence. Haruna
Babangida is 15. He plays football, for F.C. Barcelona.
How old? 15? That IS how old this players is, it was not a typo or an error that you just read. The player's name is Haruna Babangida. That name sound familiar? It should, if you know about Ajax, and their star Tijani Babangida, the Nigerian forward that also plays for the national team. Haruna happens to be the younger brother of Tijani, and is the 8th youngest of the 10 Babangida brothers, a football dynasty in the making. Another of the brothers, Ibrahim, signed his first professional contract last year wth Volendham in Holland. They all play the same position, perhaps a result of sibling rivalry, or more likely, the football that runs in the blood of those who carry the name Babangida.
The fact is indeed amazing- 15 years old and playing for the Barcelona first team in preseason action. Surely this is the dream of millions of young aspiring footballers all over the world- to reach such a level of prestige. More remarkable is the age- at 15 Haruna not only has a long way to go as a player but also a long way to grow, both physically and emotionally. Thinking about the future is frightening, for the truth is that Haruna will maybe have 20 more years to terrorize defenses in Spain or elsewhere.
Haruna started to shine at the age of 7 years, when he began playing in the youth teams of Shooting Star, one of the more prestigious Nigerian club teams. Eventually he caught the attention of Ajax of Amsterdam, well known for their youth scouting. His playing for Ajax, when he was a mere 14 years old, got the attention of another big club with a remarkable youth system- F.C. Barcelona. He came to Barcelona, encouraged by Nigerian football officials, who are desperate to have their diamond mature so as to get him as soon as possible in the top divisions of world football. At Barcelona he worked his way up to Barcelona B, just recently promoted to the 2nd division (the "A" level of the youth teams). In his first 11 games, he scored an astounding 21 goals. The Barcelona coaches put it very simply- Haruna was the best young player that they had ever seen. Coming from one of the world's greatest youth systems, this is truly a comment to be regarded.
10/1/82 Kaduna (Nigeria)
Clubs- Shooting Star (Nigeria) 1989-1995
Ajax Amsterdam (youth B)- 1996
Barcelona (youth A)- 1997-1998
Barcelona (first team)- preseason 1998
Techincally, Haruna is more than gifted. He shows a maturity on the field unprecedented for a player of his age and experience. He plays on the extreme right, as a right wing midfielder, but can also play as a forward on that same side. He has the gift of great speed, and on the ball his handling is superb. His game with the ball is his greatest and most spectacular asset. His handling is impeccable, and his moves are amazing. According to the coaches, they have never seen a young player play so well with the ball at his feet. He possesses an excellent shot, which he uses in combination with his speedy wing attacks. He has a natural ability to score goals, in Ajax he scored 15 in 30 games, at the age of 14.
So far Haruna Babangida has passed the first test, climbed the first mountain on the way to realizing his dreams. He was one of the canteranos (youth system players) called by Van Gaal for the preseason in Holland. After the 3 games, Van Gaal has been very impressed with his performance, which has been consistently good in all three games. In the third game, against amateur team Veenendaal of Holland, his goal 6 minutes from time gave Barcelona a 2-1 victory, and a sure save from humiliation. The goal came after a 48 minute goalless streak following the amateur team's goal. Haruna's performance has given him a spot as one of the reduced 7 canteranos that will continue on to England, for an upcoming preseason match with Wolverhampton. Haruna has another chance to make football history.
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photos (from top) 1 and 3- Don Balon. 2-Marca