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Chingford teenager and former Ryan player Afolabi Obafemi scores first goal in football league for Dagenham & Redbridge
An 18-year-old striker who came through the ranks at Chingford’s Ryan FC scored his first goal in the Football League on Saturday after signing for Dagenham & Redbridge in the summer.
Afolabi Obafemi played for Ryan until he was 13 years old when he was snapped up by Watford and he later joined Leyton Orient.
The young striker made 11 appearances for Russell Slade’s team but after being released by the O’s at the end of last season, he joined the Daggers on a one-year deal.
Obafemi opened his account for the League Two side in their 2-1 win over Bury at the weekend. He showed his physical power by out-muscling his opposite man before cutting in from the left and curling a shot into the corner.
Dagenham & Redbridge manager Wayne Burnett has been delighted with Obafemi since his arrival and believes the talented teenager can go as far as he wants in the game.
“We signed him in the summer and we knew the attributes he had and potentially he’s a very, very good player,” Burnett said.
“I think he’s got the attributes and the ability to go as far as he wants – he’s quick, strong, he’s got fantastic movement, he’s clever.
“And he’s come in and he’s shown me he’s got a will to learn and that’s important because if he’s got the hunger he can do anything he wants in the game.”
Burnett admits there were question marks about Obafemi’s work rate before they brought him to the club but the Daggers boss insists he has been impressed by the striker’s determination to improve.
Burnett said: “His attitude has been spot on. That was one of the issues that was raised when we signed him but I haven’t had any problem, he’s been a model professional.
“People forget how young he is, he’s still only 18 and we’ve not had any problems with his attitude. He’s gone way and beyond what I thought he might do.”
Obafemi has started the last four matches for the club and Burnett says there’s no reason why he can’t hold on to his place in the team.
“He’s started the last few games – he’s still young but at the moment he’s on a crest of a wave and long may that continue,” Burnett continued.
“Young players have ups and downs and I’m sure he will too this season so we’ll see how he goes. But we’ll look after him, protect him and try and make the most of his potential.”
Obafemi was a natural goalscorer from a young age, scoring 96 goals in his first season for Ryan.
Richard Williams, who coached him while he played for Ryan Under-9s, says he’s extremely proud of Obafemi’s achievements.
“He was certainly one of the best players even at that age,” said Williams, who is the club founder and secretary.
“He could have been a 100m runner, he was one of the quickest kids in Waltham Forest. He missed chances but his pace meant he always scored goals and even though he was a terrible trainer you knew he’d produce the goods at the weekend.
“I’m very proud of him. If he wants to I think he could play in the Premier League – he’s got the ability, it’s just about how much he wants it.”