With an adorable smile and a shy look, Taiwo Awoniyi’s personality is everything opposite his style of play. Bullish, strong and relentless; he’s a happy nuisance for defenders on his own day.
Off the pitch, he’s as restful and calm as untroubled waters. On it, he’s effervescent and stoic with a pleasant orneriness. Awoniyi has come some way in football, but until recently, he hadn’t come of age.
Out of the blues in 2015, the Reds called for his services. He previously described it as a miracle he still lives till now. Even though he’s yet to kick a ball in anger as a Liverpool player, he has relished every opportunity the name and size of the club has brought to him.
Awoniyi’s rise in football is worth its salt. He was never meant to be a part of the victorious 2013 U-17 Golden Eaglets team, but the good hands of fortune stamped a marker on him, and he didn’t only feature, he did enough to attract some of the biggest teams in the world.
It took two years before his prayers were answered, and when he thought it was time to rise, notorious and naughty niggles saw him play less football. He however had a very successful season at Mouscron, where he hit double digits in goals.
His lack of work permit ensured he didn’t play for Liverpool but the Reds have respected his contract and kept faith in him. Multiple loan moves have done little to convince Nigerian football handlers to extend an invitation to him.
A less than eventful stint at Mainz also did no good to help his ambition but if there’s anything that keeps Awoniyi up, it’s his solid faith and unshakable determination.
“I’ve never been the best in what I do, but I’ve always trusted God. I find it difficult to get sad. My belief in God keeps me going. I always tell myself that when you can’t stand high, fall on your knees,” he told Oma Akatugba, a Germany-based Nigerian sports journalist.
Awoniyi has embarked on an intentional switch of times ever since, changing agents and since having a family of his own, and such a turnaround he’s had in the past six months.
His final days at Mainz came with rare opportunities, and also, a life-threatening experience. He was rushed to the hospital after collapsing in an aerial collision. He recovered quickly enough and again said, that was God behind him.
“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.”
Everything has turned around for Awoniyi and in his last 7 Bundesliga games, he has scored five and assisted two; seven goal contributions in seven games. He plays with the same joy and passion at Union Berlin but he’s showing the qualities Liverpool saw in him more than five years ago.
On Saturday, he continued his strong run at the capital club as he scored in a 2-0 defeat of Werder Bremen. Things are falling in place for the attacker and he looks to have finally come of age.