In 1995 Ajax were the biggest team in Europe and the club’s success attracted attention from every football loving continent as did the Dutch club’s need to build for the future.
Ajax scouted for young talents and landed promising Ogbonna Kanu, who described the move as a “miracle”.
It was like a miracle, I knew the history of the club and how big they were,” he told brila.net.
The club had just won the UEFA Champions League in an epic final against AC Milan. There were two Nigerians in the squad, Finidi George and Kanu Nwankwo, Ogbonna’s elder brother.
Having his brother around was also inspiring for the 16 year-old, but even more because he was now part of a rich tradition.
Kanu joined the conveyor belt that produced some of the best players in world football and he saw them walk into the training ground and shook hands.
“I saw the senior players and those who made history with the team, they would come around to the academy and talk to us, shake our hands, you couldn’t help it.
“We saw Van der Sar, Seedorf, Kluivert and all those Big name Players, I was star-struck. It was a blessing.”
He did go on to make 15 senior appearances for the club, in a career that didn’t actually bloom.
Spells in Spain, England and much later in his career back home as well as three caps for the national team wraps up his footballing career.
Yet, one thing Ogbonna will recall, fondly, of his early days in the sport was the acceptance and warmth he received when he made his first trip to Europe as a young aspiring footballer.
“They accepted me. They showed me soo much love and I just knew then that I had to repay and do more to make my stay great.
“It meant everything to me and being in the academy was like a dream come through.”
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