Thanks to the achievements of the Nigerian Super Eagles, the diversity in football in Nigeria has seen rapid development as many more football teams have developed. Nigeria boasts of a younger male team, a national women’s team and an amputee team that seem to be doing well globally.
The Nigerian amputee football team is officially known as the Special Eagles, and despite financial challenges and constraints, it has gone on to make the nation proud, qualifying for the Amputee World Cup on several occasions.
Despite all the setbacks, many amputee footballers have the hopes of playing for the Special Eagles team and defying several odds to make their dreams a reality.
One of such footballers is Bamgbopa Abayomi Alabi, Nigeria’s and Africa’s first international amputee footballer to play in Europe. He started out playing for the local and national team before breaking grounds into international football, where he plays for Gloria Varsovia in Poland. He is the only foreigner playing in the Polish Amputee Football League.
For every footballer, the road to success has not been easy and will be even more challenging considering the fact that one is an amputee but Alabi, through dedication and perseverance, has risen and made himself, nation and continent proud.
For Alabi, sports has always been a favourite pastime and crucial part of his life. Since childhood, he showed immense interest in sport particularly football and basketball. Popularly called Alabama, Alabi has always had the dream of playing international football.
While in Bode Ijaiye primary school, he joined the football team and stood out amongst his peers. He carried on with his football career to Liabi Secondary School until he was involved in a tragic accident that left him disabled.
The loss of one leg did not come in Alabi’s way and he still kept the dream of playing football alive, taking time to practice whenever he could. He indulged in power-lifting to keep his form and structure in shape. Taking up the sports seriously, he represented Ogun, Ondo and Rivers state at the National Sports Festival, winning silver in 2004 and 102 respectively.
In 2006, Alabi joined the Lagos Amputee football team, travelling to Lagos to practise and meet like-minded people playing and reaching their highest limits to achieve their dreams.
Through the Lagos team, Alabi joined the National Amputee football team, the Special Eagles and represented Nigeria in the 2008 and 2011 Amputee African Cup of Nations in Liberia and Ghana respectively. He also helped the team qualify for the 2014 Amputee World Cup held in Mexico. Unfortunately, due to low funds, the team was unable to partake in the tournament.
Alabi was invited to France in 2012 to try out for an international amputee team where he successfully got selected to play for Athletes Club in France. After a while, he got a better offer in Poland and first played for the Lampart Amputee Football Club until he moved to his current team Gloria Varsovia.
In 2014, he was named the second best player in Poland and was invited to join the National Poland Amputee team but respectfully declined in honour of his country.
Currently, the best player in his team, Alabi now lives in Poland and is married to a polish lady. He has won his first league cup with his team but his major concerns are to uplift Amputee football in Africa working first on his home team, the Special Eagles, who are still struggling to play in the World Cup despite qualifying for it.
In his free time, Alabi plays basketball as well.