These were the exact words of 17 years old Aneke Courage Chikasiemobi, an attacking midfielder who is on trial with FC Centaur, Russia. The enterprising midfielder who was born in Enugu, southeast Nigeria, has always had the dream of being a footballer from childhood. He started playing while he was 10 and has never stopped loving the round leather game.

Humble beginning

“My parents never supported me in the early stage of my football career. I was beaten several times for coming home late from training and for choosing football rather than academics. It was tough back then”. This is a familiar story with most players back in Africa. The awareness has however changed over the last couple of years, as more parents are now encouraging their kids to pursue their dreams.

Cassi, as he is fondly called, started his footballing journey with Dynamos FC of Enugu, Nigeria, before switching over to Star Plus FC Enugu, Nigeria. The 5 ft 7 in tall midfield maestro who had shared his experience of struggling to find a sponsor to help him pursue his football dreams also had challenges with injuries.

Why football?

Cassi who will turn 18 this October, confessed that he had always had a love for the game while growing up. “My desire had always been to get paid for playing the game I love so much. Football gives me Joy and I catch so much fun playing it”

Aneke Courage who can play anywhere in attack except in the left-wing expressed his admiration for Manchester City Attacking Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. “Kevin De Bruyne is one player I look up to and I hope to play like him someday.

Move to Russia

The dream of every football player is to become a professional and move a step higher in his football career. It wasn’t different for Courage Aneke, who had always nursed the ambition of moving his career a step higher. That dream became a reality early this year January when he stumbled on an Instagram post about FC Centaur. He immediately made contact with them and was sent an invitation to come for trial with the Russian 4th Division side. The club which was founded on April 16th, 2009 is the largest private Club in Russia.

When asked about adapting to life in Russia, Aneke Courage was honest about his experience. Hear what he said: “Adapting to life in Russia wasn’t easy. It was tough, battling with the cold and the language, but I am learning the language gradually and am getting used to training in the cold”. The coaches usually train us using the Russian language. Luckily for me, some of my teammates can speak English and Russia fluently. He has so far played 22 games, scored 6 goals and provided 9 assists for the Moscow based team.

Standard of the Russian League

According to Aneke Courage whose favorite team is Borussia Dortmund of Germany, The standard of the Russian League is not too high compared to the Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, English Premier League, and the Italian Serie A. The major reason for the low standard of the League is because the majority of the players in almost all the teams are homegrown players. Foreign nationals are not given much opportunity in the Russian League.

Racism in Russia

Russia has always been in the news when it comes to the issue of racism in sports, especially in football. In 2011, fans of Russian Premier League side Lokomotiv Moscow displayed a banner. It was about Nigerian striker Peter Osaze Odemwingie featuring a banana saying ‘Thank you, West Bromwich Albion after the player left to join West Bromwich Albion. Aneke Courage confirmed he had not experienced any form of racism since he’s been on trial with FC Centaur. He however mentioned the attitude of match referees who often made calls against blacks on the field of play.

Aspirations

Aneke Courage who loves listening to music and also praying before crucial games, already has his mind fixed on his next move. “My dream is to move to a professional side in Denmark next year. I believe that with Hard Work, whatsoever you want to achieve in life is possible. Believe in yourself and remember nothing is impossible with God”. When asked if his parents have changed their mind as regards supporting his footballing career? He smiled and answered: “ They support me 100%”.