April 20, 2024

Unilagsun

Serving the university community

From football pitch to honour roll

By Michael Alabi, Ogunro Tiwaloluwa, Aderinto Daniel and Moshood Olamitunde

Akeem Onitolo, Environmental Science BGS

While many footballers focus solely on their career on the pitch, there are a few who choose to further their education while playing football. Sócrates, Juan Mata, Duncan Watmore and a few others all graduated from university with good grades while playing football. And now, Akeem has joined their ranks.

Akeem Onitolo, a recent graduate of the University of Lagos, achieved an incredible accomplishment: he graduated with a CGPA of 4.83, the highest in the Department of Estate Management and the Faculty of Environmental Sciences.

Balancing academics and football is no easy feat, but Akeem has mastered the art. This is the story of how he juggled academics with football and came out on top. 

How it started 

Growing up, he loved to play football with his friends and family. He realised he had a true passion for the sport, so he decided to pursue it as a career.

“I’ve been playing football since I was very young, just like every other young boy in the street. We had a big compound where I could play with my brothers and friends. I knew from an early age that I loved the game, and when I found out I could pursue a career in football, I decided that was the path for me.”

In 2017, he gained admission to the University of Lagos to study Estate management. He was determined to combine his academic pursuits with his love for football. He plays as a striker for Starbase F.C, a semi-professional football club based in Ogudu, Lagos, and UNILAG Marines, the official football team of the University of Lagos.

Juggling academics and football

For Akeem, time management skills were essential in balancing his schoolwork and football. He planned his days ahead of time, making sure to read his school materials early and often.

“The truth is that it’s time management. I was very disciplined with my time. So what I do is, I schedule my day, and I start my reading as early as possible.  For every course, the moment they start teaching us up to like three topics, I start reading it. It doesn’t matter even if it’s the second week of resumption. That is the only way I can spread my reading, so I don’t mind if I read just half a page every day.”

When he had a busy schedule, he found ways to make progress on his studies. Even on his way to and from training sessions, he reads on his phone. He said; “On my way to training, I’m reading PDF on my phone. Then when I’m coming back from training, I continue reading. I’m like ‘Do you remember what you read before you trained?’ ok, I remember. Then let’s get to the next thing”.

He also considers himself a slow learner. “I am a very slow learner and I read bit by bit.”

Motivation

Akeem’s excellent grades fueled his desire to do even better.

 “For every semester I put in work, I see the result so there’s no need for me to stop. You don’t need any other motivation than that you are seeing your A’s. So the motivation was the A, but I was very disciplined. No matter how tough the course is I just keep reading it, if I don’t get something today I’ll continue reading it. I might read a particular topic for three days before I understand it.” While motivation might help you get started on something, it’s discipline and consistent effort that will help you see it through to the end.

Challenges 

Akeem faced some obstacles and difficulties on his journey to achieving this feat. Despite these difficulties, however, he still managed to scale through. His father had passed away some years ago, and “….my aunty was the one paying my school fees for a bit. I struggled financially and didn’t have much money to take care of myself but I had support from my best friend who helped me financially sometimes”.

He also met with some struggles related to his football career. He suffered a knee injury just before the commencement of the 2022 NUGA games hosted by the University of Lagos, so he couldn’t take part in the tournament. “…… I was supposed to represent Unilag in NUGA but I had a knee injury. I still have it now, but I’m managing it…my injury was very , very bad”.

Also, Akeem couldn’t play for a professional team because “…… it is very very demanding. If I play for a professional team, I’ll not be able to attend classes. In fact, I might actually suffer for it.”

Memorable moments 

In spite of the difficulties he encountered, Akeem’s student life was still filled with fun and memorable events. One of these moments was when he won his first H.O.D’s Cup competition.

“I think one of such was on April 19 2018… during the H.O.D Cup Finals against the Final year students, which was also my birthday. They’ve never won the H.O.D. games and I think that was the first time they played in the finals. The moment we started the match they scored us immediately because they were so eager to win. I was so frustrated that I asked myself ‘Wetin dey happen?’. When the game was about to end, they started celebrating, thinking that they had won the match, until I scored the equaliser in the dying minute of the game, and we later won the match. The ball came to me and I perfectly converted it to goal. This day was a very memorable day for me and the fact that it was my birthday, everyone was so excited and happy. I can’t express the kind of feeling I was having because I was really happy”.

Extracurricular activities 

Contrary to what many people believe, scholars aren’t just bookworms who spend all their time with their noses in a book. In fact, many scholars like Akeem have lives outside of the classroom. He is a fitness enthusiast, a model, and he enjoys rapping for fun. “…..I do a lot of exercises and I used to train and instruct people on how to do certain things. Also, I model. I model for my friend’s clothing brand and I also rap.”

He also considers himself to be an all-rounder. “I’m an all-rounder, in fact, my social life is 100 percent, like I’m everywhere. I’m the kind of person that one week before the exam, I’ll be at a party, and when people see me in most of these parties, they will be wondering how I’m able to still maintain a first class”.

The Road Ahead

For Akeem, his future lies in football and he hopes to join a professional football team. He has no plans to pursue a career in Estate management. ” My dream is to play for Real Madrid. I’m actually a Liverpool fan but I believe that  if I play for Real Madrid, I will achieve a lot  more.”

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