By Alexander Johnson Adejoh
Leon Balogun, Super Eagles and Glasgow Rangers defender is accustomed to getting under the skin of defenders on the pitch, now he is extending it off the pitch tackling managers of the game. He recently spoke on an open podcast carpeting the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) over unpaid bonuses and poor infrastructure.
Balogun is more than a football player-he has strong character that sees beyond the game to social ills, corruption and cares about the poor in the community. He is open about his beliefs and speaks openly about it.
In Rangers, he has made quite an impact on and off the field-something that has made him popular among his colleagues and fans.
The German-born, recalled how he was given new nickname after the derby against arch rival Celtic in August. The defender impressed while playing in the unfamiliar right-back role the 1-0 defeat of Celtic.
The Nigerian international was shifted out to right-back against Celtic with both James Tavernier and Nathan Patterson absent from the squad.
Despite the unfamiliar position, Balogun played a key role in stifling the visiting attack and key man Kyogo Furuhashi.
He was instantly slammed ‘Leon Ballon d’Or’ by elated fans.
Following the man of the match performance, Balogun was all smiles when he was informed the Ibrox diehards had taken to calling him ‘Leon Ballon d’Or’.
He admitted he has some other nicknames in the past, but was delighted to get a rebrand in Scotland.
When asked post-match if he had heard what the fans had been calling after his performance and told the nickname, he laughed: ‘That’s a new one.
‘I think after we scored and the noise just wouldn’t stop, I got goosebumps running into my half.
‘It’s amazing for me personally, I love that though (the nickname). I’ve had Cafu before and Lucio before, but that one is a nice one.
‘For me it was a first time to meet the supporters during an Old Firm, and I would say it feels like I’m addicted.
He’s happy that things have worked well for Rangers since arriving two seasons ago.
‘I’ve only been here more than a year now, and everything went really well. There are some people in the club who have lived and had to experience very different times, but it’s nice that we are doing well.
‘What I noticed is that since Steven Gerrard got here he has turned around the club’s for tune’ The Liverpool legend was actually instrumental to Balogun’s coming to Scotland.
‘I was loaned to Wigan and we had five or six games left. My advisor said he had two offers for me. There was one thing that he thought was “incredibly big”. Yes, really. I thought, “What’s next? What’s this going to be?” When he told me, my initial reaction was rather calm. At first I had less of the club in mind than the Scottish League. I don’t think I’m trampling on anyone’s feet when I say that this isn’t one of the most popular in the world right now. That is incomprehensible to me. That was calculating.
‘Gerrard convinced me to move from Brighton to Glasgow, it’s simple.’