Far from his family in Nigeria, striker Lanre Kehinde has been settling in quite nicely at Maccabi Tel Aviv's Youth Team: "I'm very happy here"
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Youth Division has a longstanding reputation for developing and polishing young local footballing talent. In fact it's so unusual for a foreign lad to find himself among that local talent that when it does happen it's only natural it should catch the eye. Having joined the Youth Division in January, the 18 year old Nigerian Lanre Kehinde is Maccabi Tel Aviv "Shachar"'s new forward and it's not only his personal story that has been attracting attention but his performance on the pitch as well.
Lanre Kehinde Olanrewaju was born in the city of Lagos, until 1991 Nigeria's capital city, and began his footballing career at the football academy of the Nigerian club FC Dominion Hotspur. The fourth of five children between the ages of 15 and 27, Kehinde inherited his love of football from his father, who was also a player in a local Nigerian league. Apart from a short loan spell at the Nigerian club Kwara United F.C., and two appearances for the Nigerian U17s and 18s, Dominion was the only club Kehinde played for before arriving in Israel.
The nearly two metre tall Kehinde is not the first foreigner to join the Maccabi Tel Aviv Youth Division. The success of his predecessor, Zambian striker Emmanuel Mayuka, who spent two years between 2008 and 2010 at Maccabi, can serve as inspiration: He is now playing his football at the English Premiere League side Southampton after a stint at the Swiss club "Young Boys".
Kehinde arrived at Kiryat Shalom training grounds last December and after two and a half weeks of trials impressed not only the Youth Team staff but the Senior Team staff as well and became a member of the squad. Since then he has scored three goals for the U19s, at home against Hapoel Beer Sheva and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon and the winning goal in the derby against Hapoel Tel Aviv at their Wolfson training grounds. Youth Division Football director, Nir Levine, is extremely pleased with the way Kehinde has settled in: "Above all, Lanre is a lovely lad, positive and pleasant to talk to. I'm very happy he's joined us and we're doing our best to make it pleasant and comfortable for him here so he can focus on bringing his considerable talents to bear on his play."
Off the field, Lanre may be alone here in Israel, but his mates on the team are always there to help him when they're not busy playing or training. Among other things, Kehinde has come to love the traditional Sabbath dinners they've introduced him to. In addition, Maccabi Tel Aviv's community support group "Achim Besemel" are regular visitor's at Kehinde's digs at Kiryat Shalom training grounds and make certain he has everything he needs. So far, the Nigerian striker is very content here in Israel: "I'm very happy here, everyone is very nice and cheerful and of course I'm very grateful to the head coach and the players who are helping me improve as a football player."