Home Health Victor Boniface: Nigeria striker’s rise to Bundesliga glory with Bayer Leverkusen

Victor Boniface: Nigeria striker’s rise to Bundesliga glory with Bayer Leverkusen

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Nations Cup heartbreak was nothing new for Boniface, with the striker having missed out on 2019’s Under-20 Afcon because of another late injury.

Aged 18, he damaged his anterior cruciate ligament just weeks after moving to Europe to join Norwegian club Bodo/Glimt, complicating his adaptation to life in Scandinavia as well as robbing him of that formative appearance on the international stage with the Flying Eagles.

However, despite a second ACL injury, by the time he left the Eliteserien club in 2022 he had played a part in helping Glimt win two league titles.

Their 2020 triumph, in Boniface’s debut season, was the first time the club had ever finished top of the pile in Norway.

Sound familiar?

He then came agonisingly close to repeating the trick in his sole season in Belgium with Union Saint-Gilloise, with the club finishing second in the Pro League, behind champions Genk only on goal difference.

It would have been the club’s first title since 1935.

Boniface netted 15 times during that 2022-23 season, drawing particular praise for his performances and six goals in the Europa League as Union reached the quarter-finals.

The team that knocked them out? Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen’s sporting director Simon Rolfes claimed the Germans were already interested before Boniface’s goal in the last-eight tie between the sides, but his strike in a losing cause at the BayArena did nothing to put them off.

But as people later found out, the European ride nearly went off the rails before it really built up speed.

The loss of his mother in 2019, as well as the two ACL injuries, damaged Boniface’s love of the game for a while, leading to alcohol abuse and even suicidal thoughts for a time while he was in Norway.

“I stopped paying attention to my diet and started partying,” he recalled.

“I was not even a drinker before then but I started drinking just to feel something. I was depressed and didn’t even realise it.”

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