By: Oma Akatugba
People have great love for the game. It’s like a flu virus, football. Its difference is however in its viral pleasure. Its contagiousness is second to none, the best seen of any human endeavour.
Aness Khalidi is a football fan. A fantastic, young football fan that caught the virus of the game from his father, Mounir Khalidi, a nurse who lives in france, at the border but works 10 minutes away in Belgium, this allows him to watch matches across the two nations.
Aness`s passion for the game is unrivalled, quite never seen anywhere in the world. While his parents are Moroccan, he was born in France and has lived his life so far for football, all the way from Assenvent. From one stadium to the other, through one footballer to another, he has a collection of jerseys many football people can’t boast of, thanks to his resolve to be the best fan of the game.
Always beside him in his journeys is his father, a total gentleman. Aness, who started his jersey collection at 5 has a jersey from World Cup winner and Bayern Munich defender, Benjamin Pavard. But that hasn’t been the most catchy thing in his journey.
Aness at the age of three survived a life-threatening pulmonary disease. A type of obstructive lung disease characterized by long term breathing problems and poor airflow. It is for this reason, Nourid Khalidi, his father decided to show him through football, how others (footballers) have survived all kinds of obstacles in their struggles to make it to the top of football.
“I don’t want him to be a star. When he was a baby, he almost died due to pulmonary disease but by the grace to god he survived. It changed our lives intensively and now, we have got the same passion for football. Every travel, every story of a footballer is a medium to explain life to him and for him to know he’s lucky to be alive, to show him players stories like Victor Osimhen’s story of (poverty, death of his mum) and how he fought to be a profesional as well as, to be open to others (no colour, no racism.)we are all brothers” Nouri Khalidi said.
What has been the most fascinating is his love for young Nigeria and Lille striker, Victor ”Easy Man” Osimhen. Osimhen is by every means a gentleman too; focused, purposeful, goal-driven, humble and very hungry. His opponents may think otherwise although, because he has been a thorn in flesh and their tormentor-in-chief. The young Moroccan, Aness’ love for football has seen him follow Osimhen all the way.
He has a collection of the former Wolfsburg’s attackers’ photos and has one of his jerseys from his very successful and goal-laden spell at Belgian League side, Royal Sporting Charleroi.
”Aness has seen and collected jerseys from players in the Qatari national team and Qatari league, Moroccan league, Belgian League and most recently, the French League. I met Victor (Osimhen) in Belgium, although I already knew him from the U-17 World Cup (where he scored ten goals to emerge top scorer). ”We asked for his Charleroi shirt many times but he always gave them to supporters, children, so when I asked for Aness, he promised to send it to my address and he did it so nicely. ”Aness has met many players and some of them are; Fousseini Diabaté of Leicester and Mali, Pavard of Bayern Munich and France, Jonathan Pitroipa, formerly of Lille, now in Paris FC and Burkina Faso, Kara Mbodj of Senegal and FC Nantes, and many others.” In my chat with Aness’ father, he revealed to me that they advised Osimhen to move to the North of France, in Lille, and he did. Their ”Easy Man” coinage from Osimhen is based on what they’ve observed about the Nigerian hot shot.
”He’s easy in the football area (many defenders won’t agree with this) and also easy on the football pitch. He promised my son a jersey and it was delivered. He didn’t lie about it. He’s a nice boy and we love him very much.” Aness’ father said.
“When he Victor played his first match for Lille, nobody really knew him apart from us. We called on him when the team arrived the stadium for the match, he came to us and promised to come to say hello after the match. He scored two goals in the game (his debut) and suddenly everyone wanted his shirt and Aness offered him a picture frame to thank him for giving him his jersey while he was at Chaleroi”
I think I have a new home in France, and one more family, to spice my journeys up. Aness’ father said I can come to Assenvent, Northern France anytime I’m in the country. See how football brings the world together! And Aness’ made one wish, which he sees difficult, but possible to achieve. He wants to be on cloud nine on his birthday and only our own Nigerian, Osimhen can deliver that.
He wants a perfect birthday present, and that’ll be the Lille striker’s presence on the 26th of October, Aness’ birthday. It is yet to be known if he will make as he has a game on that day, and Aness’ and his parents stay 45 minutes away from the Lille base. It looks like one wish too many, but this is football, where anything is possible.