By Victoria Prince
Lamar Okonkwo says the one thing he wants people to know about him is his motto: “I am the ball.”
The 10-year-old Dundalk resident has been gaining acclaim in Irish soccer circles for his recent 51-goal season – an incredible feat he claims to have achieved more than once.
“It made me feel very proud of myself, I worked so hard to achieve it,” he tells Metro Éireann of his performance in the 2014-15 season, which also saw his first international schoolboy cap for Ireland against Scotland.
Okonkwo describes his experience of that match, a losing effort, as “just okay” – but was excited by the opportunity to travel abroad with his team.
The youngster has been playing soccer since he was four years old and has been with his current club, Glenmuir FC, since the age of six. “The way we win” and “working together” are his favourite aspects of playing with his club’s under-11 side.
And there isn’t much of a break for Okonkwo, as the new season kicks off in mid-August with 25-30 games between then and next spring, plus practice two to three times a week for 90 minutes at a time.
However, even in the off season he continues to practice with friends, as well as play basketball and do a few of his own workouts to stay fit.
Perhaps naturally for such a big goal-scorer, Okonkwo says his favourite position to play is striker – he certainly exudes the confidence required for such a frontline position – but he has also been known to play right wing or centre back.
“Football has had a great positive impact on his life,” says his mother Amaka, who shares his enthusiasm for the ‘beautiful game’ in that it’s helped him to make friends and build his skills and confidence while also preparing him for the future.
And what might that future hold for Lamar Okonkwo? He knows what he wants to do: “I really enjoy playing football and I would love to become a professional!”