'I am proud to be a Bangladeshi and I want to make my country proud by winning football matches in international arena,' Eleta in an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune
Eleta Kingsley wants to see Bangladesh become a formidable force in the footballing world and irrespective of opposition, the players in the red and green jersey fight till the last breath to hoist the country’s flag with honor.
Eleta, who was born in Nigeria, has been one of the major discussion points over the last one year in Bangladesh football as he gained the country’s citizenship through naturalization.
But his story is not a mere tale of a footballer, but a saga of a young man determined enough to conquer the world, bridging different cultures and seeding the hope of a future world of harmony and love.
“I am proud to be a Bangladeshi and I want to help my country make proud by winning football matches in international arena,” Eleta said during an exclusive and cozy interview with Dhaka Tribune at his Bashundhara residence.
“I am a family man. I love to stay with my wife, children at home. Football is my passion and I give my best while playing for my club, but family is the place where I get my energy from,” added the 31-year old, who married a Bangladeshi woman back in 2012 and has an eight-year girl called Safira.
Every year, plenty of African footballers arrive here to play for various clubs, but Eleta hit the headlines as he became different from them by marrying a local woman, keeping a family life here and ultimately acquired the passport of Bangladesh, the country where he is playing over the last nine years.
But his amazing journey started way before.
Eleta started his football journey by enrolling himself at Nigerian academies and at a very early age, he took the brave decision of leaving his country and trying his luck with his footballing skills.
At first, he landed in Uzbekistan but due to work permit and other complications, he had to leave that country.
However, the young man, who was too confident with his ability, did not return to his home country and with the advice of a friend, reached Bangladesh, the country he did not even know existed let alone any idea about its culture, language and so forth.
“One of my friends told me to come here in Bangladesh. I did not hesitate to take the challenge as I believed I can impress people here,” he said.
He indeed impressed people as he shone in a match between foreigners and national teams and every club wanted to sign him.
However, Arambagh Krira Sangha had prior words with him and he joined the lowly club of the Premier Division eschewing offers from giants like Abahani Limited and Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Limited.
“I joined the club as I promised them. I had no idea how strong the club was. Many others wanted me and they were annoyed as I joined Arambagh," he said.
"Till this day Rupu (Abahani manager Satyajit Das) is still perhaps angry. But right then I had no idea and Arambagh approached me first. The deal was done.”
Despite joining the unfancied club he showed his mettle by scoring goals and played for two different clubs - Team BJMC and Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra - in the next two years, although he made less appearances than he expected due to injuries and issues noutside football.
However, that is the time when he met Liza and soon married her.
“It was 2012 when I first saw him. I was a single mother of a son whose father had died and I had to take my child to school. During the tiffin time I used to go to KFC Rampura where Eleta first saw me,” said Eleta’s wife.
“He gave me his number through a waiter and when I called him he asked me to become friend but I said I am not comfortable with that kind of relationship. Then he insisted me to marry him and after a few days we married,” said the happy-looking wife, who added that she is having a wonderful life with her husband and the children.
Eleta believes family life helped him settle.
He saw many Africans come in this country and involve themselves with illegal works like drug-peddling and smuggling and as a result people distrust African footballers.
But his family life gave him different distinction and solace.
With the blessing of his family, he did wonders as he became the most valuable player, as well as the top-scorer of the 2015 Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup for Muktijoddha, scoring 25 goals in just 29 matches that season.
The experienced player joined Bashundhara Kings, the strongest team in the league, after getting his Bangladeshi passport and is eying to make his debut in Bangladesh jersey.
However, he found that the biggest difference between Bangladesh and African football is their infrastructure and culture.
He believes there must be proper academies and schooling for budding talents to bloom.
“In Africa, one has to go through the structure of academies which makes one skillful, wise and determined to win matches. Without those one cannot thrive,” he said.
Eleta is determined to hang up his boots after five years as he wants to provide more time to his family.
He dreams to play in Europe and believes he can help improve the country’s football.
“I want to go to Europe to play in higher level. I think my experience will help Bangladesh and I want to work for Bangladesh football even after my playing days as my family is here and I want to live here for the rest of my life,” he said.
“I am the first African footballer to get Bangladeshi passport. I love the country and its culture. I realize there is no difference living in Nigeria and Bangladesh. Every day when I wake up, I just want to have a good day and live for the next day for my family and my passion.
“This is the simple philosophy. For many reasons the people from different culture may not embrace and trust each other but it is not that hard either.”
Eleta was becoming emotional while expressing his words and his little daughter was accompanying him all the time.
Actually the beautiful child with curly hair proved her father’s words of compassion and love.
While Dhaka Tribune team was leaving, little Safira brought her chocolates and offered those to the people who were unknown to her, proving her Bangladeshi instinct of hospitality while at the same time she expressed with confidence that one day she will become a good footballer and will score many goals for Bangladesh, showing the confidence of his father.
Eleta may or may not become a legend in Bangladesh football but he has created a legacy, a wonderful story, the driving force of human society, for the next generation who wants to see Bangladesh prosper with the spirit of harmony, confidence and determination.