It has been confirmed that for the Rugby League World Cup in 2025, one nation from Africa or the Middle East will participate in the finals.
A qualifying tournament will begin later this month in Accra, Ghana, and the Tigers will have representation at the tournament, with Academy winger Abdullah Balogun, being picked to represent Nigeria, the place in which he and his parents hail from.
Speaking to castlefordtigers.com about his selection, Abdullah expressed his delight at having the honour of representing his country and is really pleased with the progression he has made in the Tigers’ youth ranks.
“It’s a very huge accomplishment for me. The year I’ve had and the way my career is going, I’ve really improved as a player and to be able to show it to everyone, it’s a very big achievement for me.
“I was born in Nigeria, but I have lived here all my life, so I’ve not had the time to explore my originality and go back home to see the family. It will be class to represent my home and where I come from.”
The support of coaches and family are a vital component in aiding the growth of young players through the early stages of their careers and for Balogun that definitely rings true.
Abdullah believes that without the support of his mother he wouldn’t be where he is today, despite her initial reservations about him playing sport.
“It means a lot. My mum has been with me for the whole ride, through the ups and downs. She tries to talk me out of sport because of the dangers but she’s also proud of me. She knows how hard I work, and I really appreciate her for that.
“Being at Cas has done me the world of good. As soon as I came, I was very under-developed, through my pre-season, I got taught a lot of things and for me it was about consistency. I started showing myself more. Through the mistakes, as long I kept working hard and trying my best to perform.
“My goal is to hopefully qualify for the next World Cup. I think after this tournament, there’s one more we have to compete in and if we win those two games, we’ll qualify.”
Balogun is currently attending Castleford Tigers Foundation’s Tigers College, studying for a NCFE Extended Diploma in Sport. He believes that the college has given him the platform to grow on and off the pitch and spoke highly of his peers that he studies alongside.
“Being at Tigers College has helped me so much in my progression. They’re all good kids, they all want to work together, and they have high aspirations. I’m really happy with the year I’ve had there.”
From all at Castleford Tigers, we wish Abdullah Balogun and his team-mates at Nigeria the best of luck for the upcoming tournament!