The German U20 national team captain, Kevin John Ufuoma Akpoguma, was born to a German mother and a Nigerian father on 19th April 1996.
Kevin currently plays as a centre back for 1899 Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga.
“I’m half-Nigerian as my father is Nigerian, and I’m glad to be able to say that,” He told FIFA.com, in an interview in New Zealand. “This match is already a special one for me; my parents are here and Thursday will be even more memorable for my Dad. Although he’ll have both his Germany and Nigeria flags at the ready for when the national anthems are played, in the end he’ll just be happy if his son gets to the next round.”
Kevin acknowledges the role his father played when he was much younger by taking him to the football pitch every day and helped him learn to have fun with a ball at his feet. “I’m very grateful to him,” he said, “but I also know that I’ll go into this match like I do every other. I was born and grew up in Germany so I consider myself to be German.”
He has visited Nigeria twice and his grandparents live in Benin City, where Akpoguma fondly remembers everyone going to church on Sundays and then playing football together – something he was understandably pleased to be part of.
It is clear that the Hoffenheim youngster is proud of these experiences and has been shaped by them. “As a person I always want to get on well with everyone,” he said. “I can’t hate or envy anyone. I enjoy meeting everybody and I think that kind of mentality is typical for Nigeria.
“I always have fun and enjoy what I’m doing and the way I feel,” Akpoguma went on, pausing for a moment before grinning and adding: “As a footballer I also would say that I have my African roots to thank for my athleticism because I’m still fast despite being tall.”
Regarding their chances against the Flying Eagles, the German captain said: “They rely on their attacking play and their one-on-one skills,” the 20-year-old explained. “They’re quick and have a insatiable urge to press forward. We’ve really got to watch our step as they’ve already shown that they score by putting two goals past Brazil.”
Nevertheless, Germany’s promising young defender – who counts the Flying Eagles alongside Brazil, Portugal, Serbia and his own team as title contenders – believes there is every reason to remain optimistic. “We don’t have to change much,” he told FIFA.com.
“If we can consistently remember our lines and stick to our plan, we’ll get good results. We’re getting into the business end of the tournament and we’re extremely fired up about what’s ahead. Nigeria are a great side, so now we can show what we’re really made of. We want to be in the last four and go all the way to Auckland. Having come here as European champions, that’s got to be our target.”
Kick off for the Second Round match between Nigeria and Germany is 0830 hrs Nigerian time on Thursday, 11th June.