At the time of writing Benik Afobe has 38 international caps ranging from under 16 to under 21 level. He is now 20, and seems to have been knocking on the door for forever. He’s yet to play for Arsenal first team but has made 56 appearances on loan.
So, what’s happened? And what next?
What’s happened of late is injuries. But on 30 October 2013 he made a comeback playing for Arsenal against the Nike Football Academy at London Colney.
The Nike Academy is a club for under 20 year old players who have not got a club. It is centred around Loughborough University – which has since its days as a Polytechnic has been a centre for excellence in sport, and is sponsored by the Premier League. The aim of the academy is to help the players find a club.
One interesting point about the academy is that its assistant coach is Ryan Garry, a man who knows everything about getting injuries. He played once for Arsenal, and I was lucky enough to be there to watch the game. I’ll come back to Ryan in the next article.
But back to Benik Afobe who joined Arsenal aged six having been seen by Arsenal’s scouting team. He joined on 1 May 2001.
In the season’s preview of 2010/11 the Guardian newspaper singled him out saying, “Last season the then 16-year-old Benik Afobe broke playmaking scamp Jack Wilshere’s record as the youngest ever Arsenal reserve. Scorer of an amazing 40 goals in 33 appearances for England Under-16s, Leyton-born Afobe, an out-and-out striker, is already being furtively whispered up as the next, next big thing.”
Now I think there’s a Guardian slip there, in that the record of goals to appearances was not for “England under 16s” but Arsenal’s. But you get the point.
Benik signed a professional contract with Arsenal on 23 February 2010, and there were even reports that Barcelona were after him. On 2 November 2010 the loans started and he went to Huddersfield, for whom he played 32 league games scoring eight goals.
But then he was injured twice in August 2011, and missed six months of football but on 22 March 2012 went to Reading and played three games in the championship.
On 3 August 2012 the next loan came along – Bolton all season. He played 20 league games but scored only twice and on 31 January 2013, Bolton ended the arrangement. So on 8 February 2013 Benik went to Millwall to the end of the season – but a knee injury ended this arrangement after five appearances.
Eight months later he came back for the game against the Nike Academy. In mid January 2014 he is reported expressing his thanks to Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong for helping him keep his spirits up during his long injury lay off.
On 20 January 2014, he played in the under 21 team against Liverpool. The team was Macey, Jenkinson, Yennaris, Frimpong, Ajayi, Hayden, Eisfeld, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Afobe, Zelalem, Toral
Arsenal lost 2-4 but Afobe scored one of the two goals.
Where next? Hopefully, he will soon fulfil his promise and step up to the top table.
- The Anniversary Files: January to June
- The Anniversary Files: July to September
- The Anniversary Files: October to December
- Untold Arsenal