Meet Tunji Banjo, former Green Eagles player who now works in train station

Meet Tunji Banjo, former Green Eagles player who now works in train station

Tunji Banjo might not be a popular name among current football lovers, but those that followed Nigerian football closely in the 80s will definitely remember his name, as he played for the then Green Eagles of Nigeria as well as plying his club football trade in the UK.

Banjo, now 58, had nine caps for the Green Eagles, his debut coming on July 12, 1980 in a World Cup qualifying match against Tunisia.

He now makes a living in England with London Northwestern railway company exactly 40 years after facing Arsenal in one of the biggest games in Leyton Orient's history.

In a feature interview with Dailymail, Banjo gives insight on his daily life as an railway attendant, He reveals: "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.

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"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."

The then 18-year-old Banjo was 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. "Their first two goals were fluky, deflected shots by Malcolm Macdonald," says Banjo.

"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.

Banjo continued: "I had a bad experience at Bolton early on,"

"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."

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At that time, Banjo was already a Nigerian international, eligible through his Dad. The trips to Africa were an eye-opener for the Londoner who found it a fascinating experience, but was startled to witness dead bodies in the street on one visit.

On the pitch, he came close to qualifying for the 1982 World Cup. Nigeria were beaten by Algeria in a play-off.

Banjo never became another Cunningham. He left Orient in 1983 to play in Cyprus where a bad ankle injury put paid to his dream of reaching the top. He drifted into non-league, retirement and a new life on the trains.

In 2004, he moved to Stoke-on-Trent to keep his son away from London gang culture and it remains his home town today.

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Source: Naija.ng

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