The Olu of Arepo community in Ogun State, Oba Solomon Atanda Oyebi, talks about his passion for sports, why he loves the late Rashidi Yekini and more in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA
What’s your sporting life like?
Of course, I love sports and I exercise a lot. Usually, when I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is jog around the community in my tracksuit.
How do people react when they see you jogging?
Most times when people recognise it’s me, they are surprised and some of them call me ‘kabiyesi’. There are even some instances when some other people who are also exercising will want to join me so we could all either jog or take a walk together. But usually, I tell them not to bother because I do have my kids with me. Personally, exercise is good for the body and I don’t joke with it. I also love to rest.
Did you play football as a kid?
Of course, I did play football as a kid because it was difficult to see a child who didn’t play football back then. I played football for my school as a child and I also love high jump. These were the two sports I was involved in back then, especially the high jump because it was the most common sport during our era as children. I also loved pole vault a lot and I was very good at it.
Did you win any medals in these sports?
Competitions back then were between various schools from different communities and things were not as civilized as they are now. It was basically for fun then and not for glory or for money and honestly, we enjoyed it.
Do you watch football these days?
I used to watch football but I stopped the day I accidentally broke my television during the Segun Odegbami era. Back then I loved football so much and when Nigeria was playing, we would bring the television outside for everyone to watch. That day the Super Eagles were playing and there was so much tension. I got carried away and I kicked the television while the Eagles were about to score because I was already shouting goal. That day I realised that it could lead to high blood pressure if I wasn’t careful. Since then I tried to stay away from watching football. Football is a great sport but if you don’t have the nerve and the capacity to withstand pressure I will advise you don’t go near it.
Who is your favourite athlete of all time?
I love everyone that has represented the country but the one I love the most is the late Rashidi Yekini. He was a great goals scorer. I loved the fact that he didn’t have the time to caress the ball or waste time as long as he had the goalposts in his sight. His shot accuracy is top notch and that’s why for me he remains the greatest striker this country has ever had.
Since Yekini’s retirement, the country hasn’t been able to produce a striker of his quality. What do you think is responsible for this?
It is very true that we have not had someone like him, but I believe one day we will, indeed, better than him. I have seen some young players and I believe with hard work they will become great as well. Only God cannot be replaced.
With the money involved in sports now, would you allow any of your kids to take it as a profession?
Of course. If any of my children and grandchildren show passion for it I am ready to sponsor them. Apart from the money involved, it is also very good for the health because one way or the other you are exercising and you are staying fit, which is good for the body.
Do people come to the palace to watch football games?
People come to the place to watch Premier League games and other leagues, but I don’t sit with them because if I do, I’ll be tempted to continue. Whenever I watch football, I practically kick the air as well. I don’t want anything that will give me high blood pressure, which is why I always excuse them whenever they want to start watching football.
How will you feel to have someone from your community represent Nigeria?
I will be so elated if one day I see someone from Arepo play for the Super Eagles because I have tried for some of them to make it to the top, but things haven’t worked out for them yet.
What’s your plan to have a big football team come from your community?
We already have some football clubs here in the community and we are giving our support and hoping that one day they will become a football club to be reckoned with.
Are you into traditional sports?
I love to play ‘ayo olopon’ a lot because it is a game of the intellectual but it is painful that a lot of this new generation are not showing interest in it. Our local sports are losing their value the same way people are not placing so much value on our culture again. I used to organise ‘ayo’ competitions and presented trophies and money to winners, but it is not the same anymore. I love the game because we saw inherited from our own fathers and great-grandfathers. I still have four of the boards in the palace. I also love draughts.
What is your advice on how to revive these indigenous games?
It is not just the duty of the government, but every individual. We cannot allow our culture to get wiped off because what do we tell the generation to come? While many of our children don’t know about these indigenous games and our culture, the Europeans and South Americans are adopting them. We need to wake up from our slumber and revive them.