Bayonle Arashi’s Nigerian youth team faced challenges no American coach ever thinks of. In 2010, a year after competing successfully in U-17 tournaments in Germany and Denmark, he looked forward to a repeat visit. But another Nigerian team never returned from an overseas trip. Visa requests were refused.
Undaunted, Arashi took his club to South Africa and Tunisia. In 2014, he planned a trip to Israel. A promoter took all his money. That was one more setback for the team, and its coach’s plan to build a facility to train young athletes for the next level – and playing abroad. Arashi was used to overcoming obstacles. As a youth his father discouraged him from soccer, stressing the importance of education. But he had a passion for the game, and played and watched it as much as he could
In college he studied radio and television broadcasting. His first TV job, in 1999, consisted of “switching on and off the transmitter,” he says. He spent his free time in the control room, studying the broadcasters. He was soon directing live matches, eventually including the Africa Cup of Nations and two World Cups.
As he saw the popularity of soccer beyond Nigeria, he vowed to give youngsters in his country a chance to succeed. Many talented players lacked money for soccer shoes, let alone registration fees for clubs.
After forming his club, and taking players to Europe, Arashi dreamed bigger: creating an actual academy. He envisioned a 12-acre facility, teaching not just soccer but vocational skills in four areas in which jobs will always be needed: computers, broadcasting, vehicle repair and fashion design.
“Not everyone can make a career out of football,” he notes.
Arashi has not yet built his academy (though his club is called Midas Football Academy). He funds three club coaches himself.
That’s not easy. He now lives in the United States. Unable to find full-time work in broadcasting, he supports himself – and his Nigerian venture – on his salary as a corrections officer.
Arashi came to the U.S. in 2015. “I thought you could find money growing on trees in America,” he says. He thought “someone would give me millions.”
That did not happen. Instead, a man who had promised to help him in New York never appeared. A friend put him in touch with someone in San Bernardino. Arashi paid $300 for a train ticket. He was surprised to learn mid-trip that California was four nights away.
Arashi found work as a security guard. After a couple of months, a Nigerian friend put him in touch with a man in Houston who owned a small local channel with an African perspective. Arashi headed there in July 2015, and fell in love with the city.
He has worked part-time for the African Broadcasting Network and Afrocentric Television since then. He produces a weekly magazine show featuring the top European leagues and MLS. In 2018 his “Russia Roundup” featured every World Cup team.
He has been unable to find a job with a bigger network. So Arashi reports for work at 4:30 a.m. in a correctional facility. When his day job ends, he focuses on the Midas club back in Lagos. He referees. He explores opportunities to open an academy in the Houston area. And he grows another business, Scoutballers, which connects players, coaches, scouts and agents via video. He's an author too. “Roadmap to a Successful Football Career: The Secrets Agents and Scouts Didn’t Want You to Know” is available on Amazon.
“In America, if you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded,” Arashi says. “No one hands you anything. But you can work for it.” He has “no regrets” about emigrating to the U.S. In Greek mythology, everything King Midas touched turned to gold. That hasn’t happened yet to the Midas Football Academy – or to Bayonle Arashi.
The streets of America are not paved with gold. But in Houston – and back home in Lagos – he is doing all he can to follow his goal.
Great story. Need more stories like this one.