PROFILE By Lolade Adewuyi Follow on Twitter
Tall, strong and imposing, Kevin Akpoguma has been favourably compared with his idol, Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng.
Apart from both being defenders, their fathers hailed from Africa, migrated to Germany and were born to German mothers – Boateng’s father went from Ghana while Akpoguma’s left from Nigeria.
While Boateng has won the biggest diadem in football, the Fifa World Cup last year in Brazil, Akpoguma’s path is just being laid and it could be as illustrious as the older player. They have both won gold Fritz Walter-Medals for their impact in German youth football.
20-year-old Hoffenheim defender Akpoguma has already started building a good foundation for himself in the German game where he has played in all their youth teams – U16, U17, U18 and U19.
Last year, he won the European U19 Championship in Hungary where they defeated Portugal 1-0 in the final.
As captain, next week he begins the journey to deliver the Fifa U20 World Cup thereby adding it to Germany’s senior title. He would hope to lead the Europeans to their first title since 1981 when they won as West Germany against Qatar in Australia.
“His 1.92 metres (6'4in) are perfect for a centre back. He has speed, good technique and is a dynamic player. In 2013 he got the Fritz-Walter medal in gold from the DFB, which honours every year the best German players of U17, U18 and U19. He has said that the coaches want him to become more stable, to play a whole game without errors,” said Goal Germany’s Christoph Kockeis.
Akpoguma is the modern day defender – big, nimble footed and intimidating. He used to be a forward before he was converted by a former youth team coach.
Even though he has not really made his mark in the Hoffenheim senior team, Akpoguma hopes that New Zealand would be a good tournament where he can show himself to the world. Early in May he committed to a two year loan deal at Fortuna Dusseldorf in the 2 Bundesliga.
“After the season we have put together a timetable and plan for the future, because next year I want to make the step into professional football. That's why I'm always glad to be at the U20. Here we can show ourselves internationally,” he told the official DFB site.
He is a veritable asset that could have played for Nigeria, and still could if he fails to make it into the German senior team.
In a 2014 interview with Goal, Akpoguma talked about playing for Super Eagles not being an option if he makes it into the German seniors.
“I have been to Nigeria twice,” Akpoguma told Goal. “When I was very young, about four years on holiday. Life is just much different than here.”
The defender said that the the Nigerian Football Federation had not yet approached him, however, his first allegiance is to Germany.
“And since I was born and grew up here in Germany, I see myself as a German, I would prefer to play for the German senior team, if that is possible,” he said
“Until then, it's probably still a few years away - but as long as I see that the opportunity is there somewhere, Nigeria is not in anyway an option for me.”
Still, Akpoguma could have an early reunion with Nigeria depending on the way things go in New Zealand.
With Nigeria’s Flying Eagles drawn in Group E alongside Brazil, Hungary and Korea DPR, the second placed side would most likely meet Germany who are drawn in a relatively easy Group F which includes Fiji, Uzbekistan and Honduras.