See Ibafo Barber Turned Inter Milan Star: Akinsanmiro
By Elegbede Abiodun
Inter Milan teenage sensation, Ebenezer Akinsanmiro, hopes to force his way into the club’s first team after going down the same path as Obafemi Martins, the retired Nerazzuri and Nigeria striker.
Akinsanmiro’s early career witnessed ups and downs before joining Inter Milan having featured for Beyond Limits in The Creative Championship and Viareggio Cup World Football Tournament in Italy last year, where his talent was discovered.
The 18-year-old was outstanding at the tournament and his impressive form earned him his first European contract with Italian giants Inter Milan.
His move to Inter saw him join the elite list of Nigerian players who earned rare moves to the top European leagues.
But for Akinsanmiro, who was born in Ijora Badia, Lagos, it was not an easy route to the San Siro.
Sharing his inspiring story recently in a chat, Akinsanmiro said his dream to become a footballer was almost dashed just as it was about to kick off.
It took his father’s intervention to recall him from his foster parents, who were against him playing football, to get his career back on track.
On his return, his form and confidence had dipped and he opted to learn a trade: barbing was what he chose and he opened a shop in Ibafo, Ogun State.
“A lot happened in my early years that saw me stay with my foster parents, but they never encouraged me to play football,” Akinsanmiro said.
“Each time I tried, they added more house chores for me, which made it difficult for me to play football. At that point I gave up on football, but when my father demanded, I returned home.
“On my return, I opted to become a hairstylist because I was not interested anymore in football but it was my father and my coach at Future Bright Academy Kareem Yusuf who encouraged me to go back to football.
“Then I already had a shop and I was already barbing, but people in the neighbourhood queried my father on why I was not playing football again. After some months, my father told me to follow my dream and that he would support me, which he did by buying me boots; he also offered words of encouragement and prayers.”
Akinsanmiro’s reunion with coach Yusuf saw him regain his form back and he was immediately spotted by an academy, Beyond Limits, the youth side of Ikenne-based NPFL side Remo Stars. From there, he was selected to be part of the squad that shone at The Creative Championship and Viareggio Cup World Football Tournament in Italy, where he was spotted by scouts of Italian giants Inter Milan, who subsequently signed him to their youth team.
It is a similar route to the one taken by former Super Eagles striker Obafemi Marins, who joined Inter’s youth team from Reggiana, after flourishing with FC Ebedei in Nigeria.
“He (Martins) is a player I have always looked up to, he is one of the greatest strikers,” said Akinsanmiro.
“So, I obviously follow his past and what he has been through gives me confidence as well that there is a light at the end of every tunnel, so it encourages me to keep pushing and try my best.
“I have to keep proving myself and that’s what I am willing to do. Of course, there are players better than me but I always put it in mind that I will never give up.”
Akinsanmiro’s father, Omosaye, himself a former footballer, is delighted his son took to football.
“Football runs in our family and I’m glad Ebenezer played the game as he grew much older,” he said.
“During my early years as a footballer, I was a winger who could play on both flanks because of my versatility. His elder brother Babatunde is also a footballer as well. His mother was a sprinter, so sports has been part of our family.
“I’m happy that he has taken his career to another height as well. He is also the first child of mine to have flown in a plane. I did that as well in my early years. These traits make him special and I hope he goes on to become whatever he wants to be at Inter.”
Ebenezer’s coach at Beyond Limits, Ajibola Olumide, was also full of praise for the talented midfielder, who he says loves to dictate the pace of the game.
“Ebenezer is a unique player with a different kind of skill set,” he said.
“He plays standing tall and he does not slough. He is an elegant player and you cannot pressure Ebenezer or bully him.
“He defines pressure and dictates the pace of the game. At his age, he has a mind of his own, which I like, and that makes him unique. He does not work well with coaches that shout and try to force tactics into his play.”