Oriel Park hosts royal occasion
Dundalk Football Club hosted a football match with a difference on Tuesday afternoon as members of the local African community came together at Oriel Park in honour of a visiting Nigerian monarch.
His Imperial Majesty Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II – the ruler (Ooni) of the Yoruba kingdom in Nigeria – was the guest of honour, as part of a week-long tour of Ireland.
After being welcomed to Oriel Park by Dundalk FC and Louth County Council, the king was joined by a crowd of hundreds as Afro Stars FC – a select XI from Dundalk and across Ireland – defeated Monaghan United Cavan under-19s by two goals to nil.
Dundalk FC under-19s goalkeeper and Afro Stars captain David Odumosu received the trophy from the king (pictured above), whilst his U19s teammate Gabriel Adebambo and under-17s players Jamal Ibrahim and goalscorer Val Adedokun also represented the Lilywhites.
Before the game Dundalk FC community officer Liam Burns welcomed Ooni Ogunwusi to Oriel Park and presented him with a home jersey signed by the entire first team squad.
“Everyone here at Dundalk Football Club is honoured to have such a distinguished guest with us here today at Oriel Park,” said Burns.
“We’ve had a fantastic turnout for such a special occasion and the crowd have made lots of noise, with music, singing and some excellent football to go with it. It’s also great to see three of our own youth team players representing their community today.”
Councillor Liam Reilly, Cathaoirleach of Louth County Council, also welcomed the guest of honour to Dundalk, presenting him with a wood carving from Baltray and Louth Rediscovered – a book of landscape photos from local photographer Mark Duffy.
“We’re delighted to welcome His Imperial Majesty here to the home of Dundalk football, Oriel Park, and to County Louth,” said Cllr Reilly.
“It’s a great honour for the Nigerian and wider-African community to have such a high profile member of the royal family here today and to meet with many of the Nigerian diaspora here in Dundalk.”
Ooni Ogunwusi has been the ruler of the Yoruba – an ethnic group from the west of Africa – since 2015. There are over 44 million Yoruba people, the vast majority of whom (over 40 million) come from Nigeria.
The Oriel Park match was one of a series of events for the Tell Africa International Arts & Craft Festival 2019. The king’s seven-day visit to Ireland began last weekend and also includes a visit to the Nigerian Embassy, church services in Dublin and Navan, plus a visit to Maynooth University.
As part of his visit to Dundalk, Ooni Ogunwusi visited Ladywell Shrine and Dundalk museum before the red carpet was rolled out at Oriel Park for the king to watch Afro Stars FC – a team consisting largely of Irish teenagers of African descent – win an entertaining game over Monoghan United Cavan Football Partnership under-19s.
Afro Stars coach Michael Kwelele said: “It’s very special for the people here today. He’s the number one king in Africa. He’s well-known, he’s young, he’s humble and the people love him because he listens to them and helps them in every way he can.
“He has enjoyed his stay so far and has been made to feel very welcome. He’s also a fan of football and so is happy to be here today.”
17-year-old Ola Lawal, who has just finished his studies at Colaiste Pobail Setanta in Blanchardstown, was named Man of the Match – an award he was very pleased to receive from the guest of honour.
“It was a good performance from the team,” said Lawal. “We did really well and it was a wonderful turnout for the game. It was a very special occasion so, to do this in front of the King, I am very happy.”