From Ikotun to battling Lionel Messi! Ramon Azeez recalls his beginnings on the streets of Lagos

From Ikotun to battling Lionel Messi! Ramon Azeez recalls his beginnings on the streets of Lagos

The 2019/20 season has come as a rebirth for Nigerian and Granada CF midfielder Ramon Azeez, and he has embraced it, as his performance in La Liga with the newly promoted side has propelled him back into football conversations.

Azeez first caught the eyes back in 2009, playing as an Under 17 with Nigeria’s Eaglets in the FIFA World Cup on home soil.


The young midfielder was voted the Bronze Ball winner, and tipped to excel in his senior career despite the team failing to win; losing to Switzerland in the final by the odd goal.


However, it was a big ask, because the transition has never been seamless through the youth groups in the national team; Great talents fall by the way side; lose focus and fail to hit the heights expected.


It was almost similar for Azeez, his journey into professional football got off the block two years after the 2009 U17 World Cup.


He moved to Spain, where he joined La Liga side Almeria, and by 2014 he was at the FIFA World Cup with the Super Eagles.


It went downhill from there and relegation to the Segunda Liga meant the midfielder was off the radar.


Snubbed by national team Coaches, wallowing in the second division of Spanish football with lowly CD Lugo, Azeez had hit the nadir of his career.


His resurgence will come though, with Granada and in 2019.

The club gained promotion to the top flight and 7 games in, they have defeated La Liga giants Barcelona, are second in the league and Azeez has already equalled his all-time season’s league goal record – 2 goals.


That impressive showing this season has also seen him earned a recall to the national team; for Nigeria’s friendly against Brazil in October.


About his performance and return to the Super Eagles, Azeez told it was a result of delibrate effort to improve his game over the years.


“I was very happy, and it shows the amount of hard work I’ve put in, these past years,” he said.


He recalled his humble beginnings on the streets of Lagos and how he left home as a teen to the State’s nerve center for football activities, to compete against the best.


“I started playing football in Ikotun Egbe, I was born there. As a young and aspiring footballer, I had to leave home and give myself a better chance of making it.


“My Manager, who still is my Manager Today, took me from Ikotun to Agege. I played for several teams and in competitions, until God opened the way for me,” recounted Azeez about his formative years.


These days , he’s become one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the game from Africa, but he remains grounded.


He says he’ll play any position because he fancies himself as a much refined footballer today and explains his target with Granada and the national team for the season.


“I come with a blend; I like to call myself a mix midfielder. It is much like a box-to-box player because I can play either as a defensive or attacking midfielder.


“My Target is to get more playing time and have a good game when I do. I’m a box-to-box midfielder, but it really depends on what the Coach wants from me on the pitch.


The 26 year-old will return to the Nigeria dressing room by the international break and hope to suit up against Brazil, who have one of the best midfield and attacking force in football.


He isn’t fretting though and there’ll be no change to his routine of preparing for the game he said.


“I pray first, I talk to my family, then I listen to a song. After that I walk onto the field to do my job.”

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