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Duamlong: From Grass To Canvas

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Versatility as an attribute will always pave the way for uncommon accomplishments, especially when combined with determination. Ben – Lutnaan Duamlong spent most of his time in football. At 69, he recently graduated from the University of Jos with a degree in Fine and Applied Arts. Duamlong lost his job as Manager of Kaduna United in 2016. For a 63-year-old, that was the wrong time to be pushed into the labour market. However, he chose not to go into retirement complaining about neglect after long years of service to the nation and various states. In 2017, he gained admission into the university. Here was a man who had no qualifications in Arts. Armed with certificates in sports from Nigeria, Germany and Higher School, he was lucky to be accepted as a Direct Entry student.

Duamlong graduated in 2021 as the best in Fine and Applied Arts with 4.32 CGPA and is a specialist in painting. At the 33rd and 34th Combined Convocation of the university recently, he was the oldest graduate. The joy of earning a degree to start a new life mattered more than age. Duamlong said: “I had to go back to school to put my God given talent to action and hence fend for myself. I enjoin coaches and players to go to school and get them- selves armed with another means of livelihood because they can’t be in football forever.”

Upgrading himself came naturally. While playing football, Duamlong also had eyes on education. Most of his mates quit and moved to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Francis Moniedafe left football when the ovation was loudest. Moniedafe and Dua- mlong had come a long way. They played for Yankari Bulls of North – Eastern State at the Lagos 1973 First National Sports Festival, alongside Haruna Garba. Mon- iedafe moved to Maiduguri from Jimeta while Dua- mlong was taken as a boy, from Shendam. At the end, the duo relocated down South, to Sapele in Delta State. Moniedafe is Urhobo. His friend followed him to Amukpe Eleven, Sapele. It was the team of great goalkeepers like the Irish Reverend Father Carr and Peter Fregene.

When Duamlong arrived in 1973, the club had been renamed New Nigerian Bank (NNB). In 1974, both players joined Asabatex and were invited to the Green Eagles Camp. In 1980, Moniedafe did the unimaginable. The Eagles were camped in Brazil preparatory to the African Nations Cup being hosted by Nigeria and which they eventually won. He returned from the training tour, boarded a flight to the United States, straight to North Carolina State University, Raleigh to study Business Management and Economics. Other players who took part in the Lagos 1973 National Sports Festival also went for further studies.

Dominic Ezeani, Kenneth Ilodigwe, Godwin Ogbueze, Obed Ariri, Taiwo Ogunjobi, Sunday Izebigie, Yomi Bamiro and Tunde Balogun flew to America. Patrick Ekeji, Haruna Garba and Segun Odegbami chose schools in Nigeria. Ekeji rose to the position of Director General, National Sports Commission. Ogunjobi became Secretary General, Nigeria Football Federation. Garba combined his job as accountant with coaching. Duamlong faced coaching, moving from Mighty Jets, to NNPC Kaduna, Pillars, Rovers, Wikki, Katsina, Standard, Nasarawa and Plateau United. You would think that a man who helped a team gain promotion got rewarded abundantly. It was like running from pillar to post.

Duamlong was one of the Assistants to Adegboye Onigbinde at the Korea/ Japan 2002 World Cup. He managed the Flying Eagles as well. The Kaduna United treatment was the push Dua- mlong needed to do things differently. Going back to school was not easy, especially as a senior citizen who had health challenges. He stayed on the eighth floor all day long until the end of lectures at 5pm because going up and down the stairs was painful. We salute the determination of Duamlong who braved all odds to hit his target. His accomplishments should propel others to think beyond football while the glory lasts. Some soccer veterans who did not further their education are wallowing in penury. Duamlong is not running cap in gloves in hand to ask the government for help.

He already has one exhibition to his name. From November 7 to 12, 2022, he staged SWITCH at the National Library Jos. It is just the beginning. Sir Victor Uwaifo was also a sportsman, the second best High Jumper in 1961. He later went back to school and rose to the rank of Professor of Fine and Creative Arts at the University of Benin. Duamlong may be looking up. And the man of the moments summed it up this way: “Football and Arts, to me, are one the same. While football is performing arts, what I am doing now, painting is abstract arts.”

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