It was beyond the imagination of many people that the round leather game called football would be so attractive, viable and lucrative in recent times.
The notion conceived by majority of world population before now was that football was played by illiterates, school dropouts and wayward people. This misconception no doubt slowed down the pace of development of the game in Africa, most especially in Nigeria.
I may not be wrong to say that some parents disowned their child or children because he or she developed interest in playing football.
In fact parents often times beat up their children mercilessly just because of playing football after school hours or as the case may be. This action taken was not to say they hated their wards but have the fears that they might get injured.
But now people have realised that sports is one of the best unifying factors in the world and they go into sporting activities with different intentions, some do it for physical fitness, passion, while some go into it as career to enable them earn their living and make their state and country proud.
Austine Osaretin Festus is one of the best footballers in Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), was born January 31st 1989, into the family of Osemwenkhae, in Ovia North East Local Government Area, Edo State.
He went into sports particularly with the intention to develop and promote the game of football.
Festus, attended Ivory Primary School before he proceeded to Baptist High School all in Benin, Edo State and obtained his Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE).
The former Golden Eaglets player started his football career in 1999 with a youth team called Bocas Football Club and later joined Paulson Academy, in 2004.
Following his impressive performance in the Paulson football academy he was selected to play for his state in the football event of the National Sports Festival (NSF)in 2005.
After his enviable outing in the NSF he was called for national assignment to play for Golden Eaglets in the same year. Shortly after that , the then management of Bendel Insurance FC , contested with other clubs before they could sign him in 2006.
The coach did not regret the rigorous process he went through to get the consent of Festus, because he contributed immensely towards the success of Insurance.
Festus, shortly became the beautiful pride in Bendel Insurance and Nigeria where almost all the of clubs scrambled to sign him.
In the midst of the dozens clubs that were struggling to get his nod, he carefully agreed to put pen on paper for Dolphins FC of Port Harcourt, in 2008.
Dolphins FC Technical Adviser, Stanley Eguma, who saw his potentials did not make mistake to contest with other clubs to bring him, because just three years he assisted the club to win Nigeria Premier League, in 2011 and same year he was called for the second time to serve the nation in the All African Games and emergy FA Cup runners up in 2014.
In 2015, following the relegation of Sharks FC of Port Harcourt, to lower division as its sister Club, Dolpins FC Rivers State government decided to amalgamate both clubs that is now known as Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt.
In the following year he secured a continental ticket under the new name, in Rivers United as they occupied second position on the log and won the Super Four championship.
The most significant thing about him is that he is always committed and determined to ensure that Rivers United becomes one of the best clubs in Africa and also win NPFL and the ongoing African Confederation Cup.
Apart from the fact that Festus is a good player, he also has the attribute of a good leader, with high sense of humility, which earned him the pioneer captainship of the club.
He has several times expressed worries over the absence of grassroots sports development programmes in the nation.
According to him the inability of the states to live up to standard expected of them at various national and local competitions could lead to failure to effectively tap and groom talents in the rural areas.
“ I am appealing to federal and state governments to come with a blue print on how to develop and promote sports in Nigeria. I mean all sports and not football alone.
My major worry is that we have the potentials but we can’t explore them. Most of the big names we hear in sports started at the age of five”, Festus said.
The number one player in Rivers United said his dream in his career is to play in one of the biggest clubs in the world, like Barcelona, Real Madrid , Bayern Munich etc.
He used the forum to advise upcoming young footballers to be dedicated, determined, focused and believe in themselves to achieve success.
‘ As a footballer before you excel you must be disciplined both in and out of the pitch, believe in yourself and commitment”, he stated.