Tobenna Uchendu, a 22-month-old boy, has developed a mesmerizing Messi-esque close control at such a young age
At an age when many toddlers are still trying to literally find their feet, 22-month-old Tobenna Uchendu is already lighting up social media with his ability to control the football with his little limbs.
His tiny feet have become adept at hitting the ball and ensuring that it goes wherever he wants. Media have compared him with Lionel Messi, the Argentine genius that led his country to the World Cup title last year.
His father Obi Uchendu has even mashed up a video showing a resemblance to the running style of star England forward Raheem Sterling.
No matter who you compare him with, it is clear that Tobenna was born to be a baller.
“His mother noticed when he started using his walker, he has quick feet and is very fast and I thought, well, let’s see, then I started with playing around a ball, and he liked it, and I was so happy,” Obi Uchendu told Soccernet.ng.
Obi began to put videos of his son on social media and it has since become a sensation. One of them went viral and has garnered more than 30 million views.
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“I saw one of the training videos we made on the internet and a family member reached out to me and said can I not see how gifted he is? I was in Canada at the time, I was working away from home, and I knew in that moment that I’ll have to move back home to help him grow to his fullest, no one else is going to be able to do that for my son,” Obi said.
Tobenna has since been featured on sports channels like Canada’s TSN (The Sports Network) show, ESPN in the United States of America, ESPN UK, Instablog9ja and many others.
Tobenna was born on the 16th of July, 2021 in America. “Project Tobenna” officially kicked off in February 2022, and Obi hopes that his son can become a professional when he grows up.
“Training with him has taught me patience, perseverance, the power of repitition and consistency,” Obi said.
“Where he was a year ago isn’t where he is now, and I can’t imagine where he’ll be in the coming years.
“Of course it can be frustrating sometimes, since he’s not very vocal and has very little attention span. One minute he wants to kick a ball, the next minute, he just wants to hold the ball in his hands or do something else with it, but his mum helps a lot,” the trainer dad said.
He added: “Sometimes we try things and they don’t come off, but then she comes and he does that in little to no time.”
Reminiscing on how the journey has been so far, he reminisced on the birth story of Tobenna.
“I met his mum, Patrice, at the 2018 World Cup. And I saw the Ahmed Musa brace against Iceland, and saw how proud it’ll be for a parent watching their child in a moment like that. And I envisioned it for myself,” Obi said.
“And as a Chelsea fan, we had his baby shower on the day Chelsea won the Champions League, and I thought I’d name him Starboy. He came on the 16th of July, 2021, the same date Wizkid was born, and I said it couldn’t be a coincidence, he’s a double star, so I call him Starboyy.”
Obi Uchendu who is a die-hard Super Eagles fan said he would like his son to meet striker Victor Osimhen.
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“I’d love and do anything to get Osimhen and Tobenna to have a kick around, so maybe sometime in the future when he sees the picture or video, he can know he spent time with the greatest African striker of all time and inspire him to be a better player,” Obi said.
With feet as quick as Tobenna’s as well as his ambidexterity at just 22-months-old, he might be playing with his heroes before long.