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“African poverty is different” – Lyon star Gift Orban on how football rescued him



By Monsurah Olatunji

Olympique Lyonnais forward Gift Orban has shared his inspiring journey from poverty to professional football, highlighting the struggles that motivated him to succeed.

The Nigerian international recently made a significant move to Lyon from Belgian side Gent, signing a lucrative contract. However, his path to success was anything but easy.

Leaving Nigeria at just 19 to join Norwegian outfit Stabaek after a successful trial, Orban faced immense challenges growing up in poverty, which he describes as unimaginable for those born in Europe.

In a candid interview with L’Equipe, Orban reflected on the stark contrast between poverty in Europe and Africa, emphasizing the lack of support and opportunities in his homeland.

“For those born in Africa, poverty means life is impossible,” Orban explained. “It’s a harsh reality where finding food becomes a daily struggle. Football offers hope and a way out.”

Orban credits his determination to succeed not only to better his own circumstances but also to help others facing similar challenges. His goalscoring prowess, developed from a young age, became his ticket to escape poverty.

“Do you understand the word Poor?,” Orban was quoted by Getfootballnews France.
”I can’t explain it because you can’t understand. You were born in Europe, it’s not like being born in Africa.
“If you’re poor in France, the state can help you, charities can help you and take care of you. In Africa, no one gives you anything and you die of hunger. That’s why we all want to play football.
“Where I grew up, if you’re in a poor family, life is impossible. That’s what gives you determination, you don’t want to relive that. You had to find food every day.
“Now, I want to succeed in life to be able to help. Not only my family, that’s already obviously the case, but I want to help all poor people, orphans, who had the life I had, sometimes even worse.”

Despite facing setbacks and temporary returns to Nigeria, Orban’s talent eventually earned him a professional contract in Norway, where he seized his opportunity and never looked back.

“When I was a kid, my only concern was getting the ball into the goal, even when it was in my half. I was capable of shooting from a distance if I saw the goalkeeper in a poor position. If I was told to make ten passes before scoring, I’d rather score directly.
“The most important thing is putting the ball in the goal, so I have that in the blood. Goals saved me and changed my life. I scored goals because I wanted to escape, I managed to leave Africa thanks to that talent.
“When I arrived in Norway, it was difficult for me, I even went back to Nigeria for a while, then they gave me a three-month contract. That was my chance!
“The manager let me play and I scored twice in successive games. I really had to organize my game. When I turned professional, I understood there would be highs and lows. We can’t win all the time, it was a difficult adaptation but I had to get on with it.”

His journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of football and the resilience of the human spirit. Orban’s success is not only a personal triumph but also a beacon of hope for others striving to overcome adversity.

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