Soccer Shelter

words and photography by Sven Cichowicz

Prince hates waiting. He prays and does sit-ups, prays and does push-ups, prays and runs. All that keeps him from waiting and all that brings him closer to his dream. Being raised in a small Nigerian village, Prince started playing football in primary school, when he looked up to the players of the Nigerian National Team called the ‚Green Eagles‘. He knew that one day he himself would be representing the colours of his fatherland.

The dream was big. „You know in Nigeria we have a lot of players. And everyone is trying to wear the national colour“ Prince says, while talking about his career so far. When Prince turned 18, a talent scout of the national coaching team saw him playing at a local match. He invited him to train with the Nigerian U20. Prince made it to the squad and played two matches in Abuja, Nigerias capital city. They fought against Trinidad and Tobago and the team of Eritrea; the dream was within his grasp. But altough they had won both matches, Prince wasn‘t chosen to continue the training. Others stayed, Prince had to leave, back to the village where he came from and back to his local club. The story, like many others, could end up here. But it didn‘t.

After he had finished secondary school, Prince attented University. Some fellow students were training for the West African University Games, a competition between 60 universities of 14 west African countries. He trained with them but again couldn‘t make it to the final selection of the football team. However, he was given the chance to start playing for his University at the National University Games, and after finishing his studies, he won the cup as the captain of his team at the National Youth Service Competition.

A soccer scout from Europe saw him playing and invited him to Finnland. What first sounded like a joke or a cheap trick, turned out to be a real assignment. Before he knew it, he found himself in Helsinki, where he felt so cold that he couldn‘t go out and play football during the first week. He stayed and played for two seasons at a football club named Oulun Palloseura. The salary was small, but the club paid for the travel expenses and accomodation. After two years his contract was not renewed.

Instead of going back to Nigeria, he went to Germany, hopeing to play for a football club there. The journey ended up at an asylum seekers‘ home in South Germany. Knowing that his application for political asylum might not be granted, he‘s not giving up on his dream. He‘s trying to get an assignment at one of the local football clubs. And he‘s praying and doing sit-ups. And he´s waiting.