The learning curve in life isn’t horizontal for a reason. There are high and low points. It requires mental strength to interpret the trials and ordeals of life as normal challenges and not a wrecking ball. Rejection is not denial, it’s just preparation for a bigger showdown.
In an exclusive telephone conversation, Joshua Akpudje of BFC Daugavpils opened up to OJBSPORT on the travails of his football career.
His career took off after a fantastic performance at the 2015 Principal Cup. The championship is played among secondary schools in Lagos State.
“The Principal Cup created a big avenue for me to showcase my talent. I represented my school, Gbagada Senior High School. I was the captain of the team. I scored two crucial goals for my school against Dairy Farm at the Agege stadium in 2015, and I was named the MVP for that year.”
The Lagos-born 22-year-old defender joined Femmak Football Academy Ikeja, Lagos, to embark on his journey to become a professional footballer.
“Mr Makinwa saw me at the Principal Cup tournament; he approached me and told me of the academy and the trials coming up. I joined them after a while and over five hundred people came for the trials. Five scouts from Slovenia were around from Olimpija Ljubljana and they said they will only pick three players.”
Joshua played three games in the tournament and as grace would have it, he was picked. He left for Olimpija in April 2016 for trials with the Slovenia club, but on arrival he was told he was too small in stature and too young. In July, he was scouted again in Femmak Academy in Lagos by a Croatian club, Hadjuks Split.
He had a brief stint with the club where he won the pre season tournament. He made Nine appearances but couldn’t get a contract. After that, he had to return to Nigeria.
“I felt bad when I didn’t manage to sign a contract in Hadjuk. A lot of things came to my mind when they told me they won’t sign me. A part of me wanted to run away but I said to myself that maybe God is trying to tell me something, and I returned to Nigeria.”
Joshua Akpudje was in Nigeria for two years without any offer; he described that time as a difficult moment in his career. At the end of 2018, Joshua met someone during a football game at the Police College in Lagos who offered to take him to the Czech Republic for trials.
After two weeks of trails in 1 FC Slovacko, he got another shocker:
“The coach of the club walked up to me in the locker room and said, ‘Tu cas blés. You can’t play football; go back home and learn something else.
“It was tough for me, I called my mom and I was crying that I am coming back to Nigeria the next day.”
Three times being denied is enough to crush anyone.
Joshua’s zeal to become a professional footballer was unshakeable. He was tenacious and hopeful.
Former MFM coach Fidelis Ikechukwu signed Joshua from Femmak Academy, and by chance, Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr and a Latvian agent Olivier were in the stands to watch a game between MFM and Warri Wolves at the Teslim Balogun stadium in Lagos.
Olivier, the Latvian agent, approached Joshua after the game to compliment him for a job well done. Through Olivier Joshua got a year deal from BFC Daugavpils. He travelled to Latvia and after he featured in two games, the club decided to add another year to his contract.
For Joshua Akpudje, patience, hard work and persistence paid off. His experience shows destiny can only be delayed, but it can’t be changed.