Nigerian star Bayanni: Why I'm a Red

Friday 09 June 2023 06:00

My life as a Manchester United fan started around 2007.

This year was quite pivotal because almost everyone around me had also picked up an interest in football. The Nigerian national team were doing well and I remember almost every family in the neighbourhood tuning in day and night to watch the youth team go all the way to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
So at school, even on the way to school, a few of my classmates and I would stop at the newspaper stand to have a peek at what the sports publications were saying. This was around the season Cristiano Ronaldo peaked as a footballer, the 2007/2008 season. 
Of course, I adored him. Everyone around me did as well. The tricks, audacious goals, delightful counter-attacking play where the team would score mind-blowing goals. I also loved the attacking quartet of Rooney, Tevez, Ryan Giggs, and Ronaldo. It was so cool to me that the team had this huge home support at Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams.
Bayanni's Ta Ta Ta has accumulated 30 million streams on Spotify whilst the video currently sits on 14 million views.
Another favorite player of mine then was Paul Scholes. Would we have got to the 2008 Champions League final without him scoring that long-range strike against Barcelona? 
He was so cool; such an amazing player with technique and flair. On his best days in central midfield, opponents had no chance.
Revisiting all these memories is nostalgic, because Manchester United formed a deep part of my childhood.
Coming from a humble background, not a lot of families could watch Premier League matches, because cable television was quite pricey back in the day. There was always that one family in the whole neighbourhood who had one. 
If you were close to them, they could let you in, sitting on their well-tiled floor to watch. You didn’t want to overstay your welcome though, so you would then make your way into a football viewing centre. Along with other kids, I'd stand outside the door trying to watch the match.
Yet it was fun. Being a United fan with Sir Alex at the helm orchestrating things was just so special. I remember us winning the Premier League in 2008 and Chelsea were actually very close – I think two, three points behind us in second?
All The Goals: Paul Scholes Video

All The Goals: Paul Scholes

All The Goals | Watch all 155 United finishes by the incomparable Paul Scholes...

The Champions League final that year was so gripping. Scary! My heart was beating all the way through. I would be lying if I said I knew we were going to win! Yes, we had Ronaldo and Edwin van der Sar, with a variety of attacking options on the bench, but Chelsea were also a well- drilled side and, damn, Drogba was such a superpower. 
Back here in Nigeria, there was animosity and frenzy in the air. Opposition fans were so sure they were going to win that a few bought a cow and branded the cow blue in anticipation of a win!  For this match I was in the home of a family close to ours, so was sure not to miss out on the end-to-end action. It was total euphoria when we won.
Of course, that's the last time we lifted the trophy. The 2011 final was a heartbreak, as was Sir Alex leaving. I remember debating with my classmates if there was anyone that could replace him. Maybe Erik ten Hag is our answer. That fluid attacking football we had under SAF looks like it’s back now.

However, the period that ensued after Sir Alex left was a dark period. I had got to university then and the losing streaks we had, the defeats by bottom-of-the-table teams, was banter material for my hostel mates. I still remember the 5-3 loss to Leicester City in 2014/15... That season I could hardly speak during football bants with classmates!

Soon after, I wrapped up school and began to focus on my music career, a longtime dream of mine. It’s been amazing since then.
Chelsea 1 United 1 Video

Chelsea 1 United 1

Watch all of the nerve-shredding drama from our Champions League triumph in Moscow...

In the last few months, a song of mine, Ta Ta Ta, went viral across Africa and Europe, and sparing time to watch our matches has actually been difficult. A match is usually starting as I’m about to hit the stage, or I’m holed up in the studio with another artist or producer trying to put finishing touches to an upcoming project.
But seeing Ta Ta Ta go viral – even being used in football highlight clips, and by a few EPL players – shows how maybe a love of the game has its reward sometimes. There’s always a saying that your passion for anything you invest time in would get its reward either good or bad – maybe this is it for me. It also shows for me how music and football are quite connected.
And oh my, having Jason Derulo hop on the track is still something that surprises me, given I used to dance to his records while growing up. 
But I'll never stop watching United, and hope to visit the Theatre of Dreams soon. Who knows? Maybe that first title since Sir Alex is not too far away with Ten Hag in the dug out...

Check out the remix of viral breakthrough hit ’Ta Ta Ta’ from rising Nigerian star Bayanni, alongside superstar singer Jason Derulo.