Victor Boniface: From barrack boy to Bundesliga rookie of the season and champion

 Victor Boniface: From barrack boy to Bundesliga rookie of the season and champion

The history of German football will for a long time remember the name Victor Boniface, but not many people are aware of the extraordinary journey that led him to the height of his achievements.

Boniface’s journey is a testament to the strength of determination and passion—from modest beginnings in the military barracks of Akure, Nigeria, to winning the Bundesliga trophy and the Rookie of the Season award.

During an interview with Deutsche Welle DW, Boniface recalled his early career in football, living with his grandparents in a military barracks in Akure.

“I lived with my grandparents. Grandpa was in the army, I grew up in the military domain. I often played football there with my uncles,” he said.

According to him, they had a soldier neighbour who takes him with him whenever he is going to play. The played a crucial role in his early development.

“So when the soldiers go out to play, he will take me sometimes to watch them play.

“He is a fantastic player, so during evening at home, we play one touch, two touches. I learnt a lot from him before I grew and started doing my thing,” he added.

As his talents developed, Boniface started to get noticed by people beyond the barracks. His first academy coach, Johnson Blessing, believed he was “special” and helped to further develop his skill.

Coach Johnson Blessing and Victor Boniface during the early stages of his career

Johnson Blessing, has this to say about the Leverkusen man.

“He was highly talented and was not playing the way others were playing. He was different, that attracted me to him, that this guy is going to go far.”

He continued by saying that Boniface distinguished himself against more experienced players by earning the award for most valuable player in inter class contests.

When Boniface arrived Lagos in 2019 to join Real Sapphire FC, his life took a significant turn. Within months of being at Sapphire, the 23-year-old made his first move to Europe, moving to the Norwegian club Bodo/Glimt.

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His three years in Norway improved his skills, preparing him for a 2022 transfer to Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium. There, Boniface put up incredible displays. He scored six goals in Europa League, including a famous brace against Union Berlin.

Xabi Alonso, the manager of Bayer Leverkusen, was impressed by Boniface’s exceptional performance, and in July 22nd 2023, he made a high-profile transfer to the German powerhouse on a contract until 2028. With additional clause, the transfer was valued at €20 million, making it the most costly sale in Union SG’s history.

The Super Eagles attacker was hailed by Alonso, who described him as a “terrific player and a serious threat to opposition defences.”

In spite of missing four months of action from December 2023 to April 2024 due to an adductor muscle injury, Boniface did not let fans down in his debut season at Bayer Leverkusen as he scored 21 goals and provided nine assists in 33 appearances in all competitions for Alonso’s side.

His influence was evident as the team went on to win their first-ever Bundesliga title in their 120 years history, a momentous accomplishment made all the more amazing by the team’s season long unbeaten streak. The 2023/24 Bundesliga Rookie of the Season award was given to Boniface in recognition of his achievements.

With Leverkusen gearing up to take on Atalanta in the Europa League final on 22nd May and Kaiserslautern three days later in the DFB-Pokal final, Boniface stand a big chance of adding more silverware to his already impressive collection.

Boniface’s achievements is an inspiration to many young athletes in Nigeria and around the globe, proving that everything is achievable with talent, dedication, and determination.

Victor Boniface’s journey from the military barracks in Akure to the Bundesliga champion and Rookie of the season award winner is a fairy tale and a testament to the positive impact of football on people’s lives.

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