If you were a fan of Nigerian football in the early 1980s, you would remember Tunji Banjo. He was among the first generation of foreign-based ‘professionals’, but right now, he drives trains for a living in London.
Tunji Banjo who played for Nigeria as a footballer in the early 1980s, alongside John Chidozie and John Orlando, once played in an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal for his English side, Leyton Orient in 1978, is currently making a living while he works on the trains in the country.
While speaking exclusively to Dailymail UK, Banjo opened up on how he still has a living to make while working on trains with London Northwestern exactly 40 years after facing Arsenal in one of the biggest games in Leyton Orient’s history.
‘The earliest start is 5am in Northampton which means I leave home at three. I’ve been a footballer so I know the difference between that and proper work!
‘I wouldn’t expect players from today’s academies to understand but it’s nothing new for me. I’ve been a bus driver, a dustman. I’d work summers at Orient, I did cleaning at Lord’s cricket ground.’
Banjo was 18 and earning just £100-a-week when Second Division Orient beat Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Norwich to set up their semi with Arsenal on April 8, 1978.
The favourites won 3-0 in front of 49,000 at Stamford Bridge and it still hurts.
Recall the event, he said; ‘Their first two goals were fluky, deflected shots by Malcolm Macdonald,’ says Banjo.
He’d come on as a sub and is grateful there are pictures of him battling for the ball with Liam Brady because the match itself was a blur.
‘We went back to Brisbane Road after and then I caught the tube home. I remember changing trains at Oxford Circus, thinking how crazy it was I’d played in an FA Cup semi-final two hours before.’
Banjo, a strong-running midfielder, was among a group of young, black players at Orient who helped change the face of football.
The most famous, Laurie Cunningham, left for West Brom in 1977 but John Chiedozie, Chris Hughton’s younger brother Henry, Bobby Fisher and Kevin Godfrey remained.
‘I had a bad experience at Bolton early on,’ recalls Banjo. ‘I was warming up to come on and got all this verbal abuse and bananas being hurled down.
‘We were brought up tough in London so it didn’t put me off but I’m sure those people looking back now must feel ashamed. It was just a way of life then.
Sometimes you get angry about it but I don’t feel it does you any good to hold any grudges.’
See more photos below:-