Football

Taiwo Awoniyi: My Collision And Being Alive – That Was The Referee, That Was God

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Oma Akatugba

On the 14th of June, Nigerian striker, Taiwo Awoniyi went for an aerial ball against Augsburg’s Felix Udoakhai, only to land in the hospital.

His tussle for the ball on-air had resulted in a heads-on collision between both players. Awoniyi, 22, suffered a concussion and trepidation soon spread round about his condition at the time.

The story sent Nigeria into delirium, as fear and panic gripped his family, friends and other football lovers in the country. Prayer reigned and rained for his quick recovery. It was one moment that typified how fast things can change in the life of a human being.

“A pitch I went into having prayed to God that I should score and all of a sudden I woke up in the hospital. How can you define that? If not for God (it’s unbelievable, it’s indescribable).

“The people that were there, I must commend the referee, medical staff, they did a great job and I think even my teammates were not conscious of it, only the referee was aware, something must have pushed him to know that someone is on ground, and for me that’s God.”

Taiwo being resuscitated by the ref

If you have ever spoken to Taiwo, you’ll understand his special relationship with God. Humble, respectful and down to earth, his nature represents an ilk of the old order. He never shies away from telling his story, and God’s impact on his life and this wasn’t any different.

Sporting a round neck and a piece of jeans, we meet at a cool spot in Frankfurt, Germany. He wore his signature smile as we spoke and he looked like a young man who still has a lot to achieve. Perhaps it is one of the reasons why God kept him alive.

“It took me time to really know what happened, because when I woke up the doctor told me…” he said.

“I just discovered being carried to the X-ray room …do you want to call your wife and I was like my wife? Then I said yes I need to call my wife, he asked if I remembered anything and I said we were playing a game, is the game finished?” He recalled.

“I opened my phone and saw a lot of calls from my brother and I was like what is happening, Seyi Olofinjana sent me a text “is everything okay?” then from the text I saw that I had a knock in my head and I asked the doctor what happened and he said he can’t tell me until I remember everything myself, I know I passed the ball to my teammate, I sprinted into the box to connect for the ball, and then he showed me a picture of me going for a header, I took the knock and before hitting the ground I was unconscious, total blackout (so it was more like a body coming down) the doctor told me the X-ray was normal and it was totally strange for them and that was the word strange, because normally when someone go off like that it’s strange for the head not to come straight, the normal thing is to fall on the head but I fell on my two feet, then my shoulder touched the ground before my head, I noticed I was having pain on my shoulder, had it been it was on my head straight, it could have been another thing.”

Awoniyi revealed the emotional rollercoaster that his family, friends, club and everyone associated with him was in, as he appreciated the goodwill messages from people.

“After I received the message from Seyi Olofinjana and I called my brother, the first call I received was my agent, he was telling me that I need to talk to my wife which I said yes I need to call her to check on her to see how she’s doing because it was so difficult for her to take the incident. Then I got my phone and called her via WhatsApp video call and I saw in her eyes that she’s happy to see me and that I’m fine. My agent told me how it was with everyone back home because they were all watching, my mom, dad, brother, twin sister and best friend. My sister was the one calling my wife just to keep her calm. It was a disaster, my dad is always calm regardless of the situation. My mom wasn’t at home but she was called and told, my dad was calling for calm but my brother did the funniest because of our bond, he bursted into tears. I was told by my little sister Jumoke who communicated in Yoruba that my brother Victor’s mode of breaking the news could kill. It was a very difficult thing for them to take and here I am giving glory to God.

“I can’t be more grateful for what they’ve shown even from the people I least expected. Even my colleagues all reached out to me checking on me, I just want to say thank you to everyone for what they’ve shown. They showed me love and I hope the love would come back to them as well. It’s the most important thing in life, show a little bit of love and sympathy not only when a circumstance happens, even in good times. I’m really grateful on behalf of me and my family, we say thank you to everyone that has reached out to me. Here I am doing good and thank you to them,” he said.
 
The Centre referee for the game, Marco Fritz was very instrumental to restoring Awoniyi’s life and he said he has since reached out to him to express his gratitude.
 
“Yes, I did (call him afterwards). I requested for his number from my agent, so I texted him expressing how grateful I am to him and he responded saying he’s happy he could help and he hopes to see me on the pitch again very soon.

“I must also say thank you to the Augsburg team as a whole because they sent me a special card

Letter from Augsburg

that was signed by all their players just to say

Taiwo it’s not what we hoped for, we’re very sorry. The player I had a collision with, Felix, also a Nigerian sent me a text from the hospital, I don’t even know how he got my number, he said Taiwo I’m really sorry for what happened, I’m your brother and I hope you come back soon. This is love from them and I really appreciate that, it shows football is not just all about the competition, there’s so much love.”

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