Joy For Two Orphans, As Stardom Beckons

Brand Manager Pepsi, Segun Ogunleye (left); Pepsi Academy UK Scholarship winner, Ekeh Divine; Director, Pepsi Football Academy, Chief Kasimawo Laloko; and another winner, Nneku Joseph at the Pepsi Academy U.K Scholarship Selection Exercise in Abeokuta, Ogun State…last week.

Brand Manager Pepsi, Segun Ogunleye (left); Pepsi Academy UK Scholarship winner, Ekeh Divine; Director, Pepsi Football Academy, Chief Kasimawo Laloko; and another winner, Nneku Joseph at the Pepsi Academy U.K Scholarship Selection Exercise in Abeokuta, Ogun State…last week.

They are two orphans with similar stories. They lost their parents at very tender ages and were forced to live life at the mercy of relations. But fate smiled on Nneku Joseph and Divine Ekeh on Saturday, June 13 when they were picked by Pepsi as the two lucky winners of a scholarship to the prestigious Brooke House College in the United Kingdom to study and train to become professional footballers.

Ekeh and Nneku were among youths drawn from all the Pepsi Academy centres across the country to compete for the scholarships at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta.

The round robin competition featured a five-a-side football match between the 10 best players selected after the annual Pepsi Academy competition.

Joseph, 17, from Jos, told The Guardian that he lost his father almost a decade ago and was at a time forced to stop his education because his mother could not shoulder the burden of training him at the same time with his sisters.

“I have been through a lot in life, so there is no circumstance that I will find myself in England that I can’t cope with. When I lost my father, my mother and I struggled with my sisters.

“We had to sell some of our property to survive. I had to drop out of school. This scholarship is like a new start of life for me,” Joseph said.

He described the scholarship as the beginning of his career, while hoping to play for Nigeria in future.
Joseph from Anambra State is second of six children, who was raised by his mother, a dressmaker.

He disclosed that his mother registered him at the Pepsi Academy, Jos, when she recognized his passion for football in 2010.

After five years of hard work and dedication, inspired by the likes of PFA Jos Centre alumnus, Super Eagles and Chelsea midfielder, Mikel Obi, young Joseph Nneku can now begin the next phase of the journey to living his dream.

To Ekeh, from Imo State, who was picked by scouts at the Pepsi Academy in Aba, the scholarship is a life changer, which “I am yet to come to terms with.

“When I lost my parents, I was loitering about in my village in Imo State before my uncle came to take me to Aba, where I started playing football hoping to make a living from it. And now God has blessed me with a scholarship to England. Please help me to thank Pepsi for tis gesture.”

Ekeh dreams of playing for Liverpool FC and the Super Eagles in the future.

Explaining how the winners emerged, Director of the Pepsi Football Academy, Kasimawo Laloko, said the boys were the best among the roll call of talents on offer, based on good behaviour, attitude, comportment, ability and tolerance.

“We watched everybody. It took us some time to arrive at choosing these ones. It was a consensus,” Laloko said.

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