When we think of footballers, the stereotypes come thick and fast: overpaid, flashy young men with skills. But there are always exceptions to the rule and Leeds United striker Enoch Showunmi is one of them.Finding success on the pitch (playing for Luton Town, Bristol City and Nigeria), in the books (he has a degree in Business Administration) and with words (he is a poet at heart) Enoch seemed to have it all, until recently. Diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, his once bright future now seemed uncertain.
Here he talks to Flavour about football, poetry and how he made a negative situation work for him.
How did you get involved in professional football?
You could say I was one of the lucky ones or perseverance and hard work got me into the game, but a week after I graduated in 2003 I played a trial game against Luton Town’s first team and was asked to come back for another trial. Months of playing, for expenses only, was followed by scoring a hat trick in a first team league game and my first professional contract in February 2004.
Was it a career path you had always chosen?
Yes and no. Like most young boys I’ve always had fleeting fantasies of playing professional football, but I never ever thought I was good enough to play at that level. I joined a men’s football team (Willesden Constantine) at 17 who kind of drummed it in my head that I could play at a higher level and I suppose my confidence in my ability grew from there. I actually had my first brief trial at Luton Town FC when I was 18 but I still thought they didn’t really want me and opted for university instead.
You’re quite a rarity in the industry, not only do you have a degree in Business Administration, but you are currently studying for your masters. What keeps you persevering in education?
I was brought up to respect education; it’s been engrained in me for a long time. It’s not just education though; I have always craved knowledge in every aspect of life. My motivation to pursue a masters was borne out of the fact that no matter how good you think you have it, nothing lasts forever. Although I’m not a great planner I do like to think I can adapt to any situation; that means being equipped with the tools to do so – the masters I believe provides me with those tools.
What are you studying?
A MSc in Finance.
You also write poetry, when did you first discover your passion?
My poetry comes from my love of hip hop and the fact that you can put words together that can entertain and educate at the same time. As a kid I always tried to rap not only copying artist’s who I liked but I tried to write my own lines and verses. I can look back now and laugh at how rubbish I was, but that was my starting point.
Do you perform live?
I haven’t as much as I would have liked mainly because of my football career; but I’m looking to improve that in the near future.
What is your performance name?
Showman Da Poemcee. Showman is a play on my surname and also a personal acronym, Da Poemcee, just comes from my love of emceeing and that I see myself as more of a poet than an emcee. Combining the two you get Poemcee.
What inspires your poetry?
Originally I wrote poems for myself – personal thoughts about life, spirituality, the way I saw the world and the universe. So for a long time what I wrote I never shared with anyone, in a way it was like my journal. As I continued writing I began to play with techniques like multiple syllable rhyming, metaphors, internal rhyme, the actual flow of the poem; all things you would see in good rap artists’ repertoire. While the hip hop industry was forever changing, I wanted my poetry to still retain the essence of what hip hop meant to me. I wanted my poetry to have a message so the reader learns something, or it inspires them and they go away thinking about life and the world. I’ve never agreed with the saying about sticks and stones, because it is words that have power over people; they can build you up or hurt you.
What plans do you have for your poetry?
I have a few plans that I am trying to execute even if it has been a slow process. I have enough poems to put two or three books together, so my main focus is to be published which I’m working on at the moment. I am currently playing around with the idea of putting them to music; a few to hip hop beats but the majority will be of the spoken word variety. I am looking to use all forms of media so you will get the total package and all you have to do is choose which type of media you prefer. I’ll also be performing more spoken word in the summer to continue building my reputation as a poet.
You were recently diagnosed with pulmonary embolism (otherwise known as a blood clot on the lungs), how did you feel when you were diagnosed? How has this affected your football career?
I’ve always loved playing football if I wasn’t a professional I’d still be playing; but I feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity. So to be diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness was a massive shock, especially going from being fit and healthy one day to being told that you won’t be able to play any football for the foreseeable future. The treatment for a blood clot lasts six months and while I’m on this treatment I can’t actually play football at all, so it’s been a difficult time getting my head round a lot of things that has happened in a short space of time.
What motivated you to turn a negative situation into something that worked for you?
To me it was not about motivation, it was about a necessity. There were two things I could have done in my predicament: wallowed in self-pity or get up and do something. I did both; I wallowed for a little bit then chose to do something. I‘ve always harboured thoughts of doing a masters and actually inquired about starting in September however I left it too late, but knowing I had time off I threw myself in at the deep end and applied in January and I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge.
The blood clot actually came at a time I wasn’t enjoying football, this time off has made me appreciate my position and if I was even contemplating or unconsciously resting on my laurels then I got a massive wake up call. Though I’d give anything just to play a Sunday league game with my mates my condition has changed my perspective on life in general, not only was I thinking about my own life and death but the possibility of my life without football. It made me sit up and take notice because no matter when that time comes, whether doctors say it’s in six months or my career runs its course naturally, there will be an Enoch without football so long-term I’ve got to think what am I going to do with myself.
Do you have a strong support system?
My family mean the world to me, without them I don’t know what I’d do. Even though I live 200 miles away I feel their presence in my life everyday and I know no matter what they have my back and are always looking out for me.
What is next on the Showman agenda?
I know it’s a cliché but I am really taking every day as it comes. You never know what the future holds all you can do is try and work towards what you want to get out of life. Studying has my main focus at the moment, but that doesn’t stop me from putting things in place so I can achieve what I want from the others. I’m unable to train with the team at the moment so I’m training hard on my own and still working on perfecting my poetry and coming up with new ideas daily. I have ambitions to achieve with my football career, my poetry and my studies.
Read one of Enoch’s poem’s below
They say money is the root of all evil
So tell me why does it bring out the worse in people?
Lies and cheats
Suspiciously watching others you happen to meet.
Chasing a dream often ends in a financial reward.
Is money equated with happiness or is this notion floored?
Is there something more?
Where we lack understanding.
Is it found in science?
Or our own thought ramblings.
Where lies the truth?
Is our existence uncouth?
Or is the world perfect which is why a god remains aloof.
From the war, deceit and crimes
The world used to be mine now it seems in steady decline
Is not as defined
Realigned with despair
Scared to declare we care
And end this nightmare
Is this just the way the world is?
As its meant to be
Pre-empt the contempt
Is our discontent the key?
The incense inside of me
Cements worldwide you see
Applied equals angry…it guides people and me
The governmental bodies haven’t got the mental to govern
Living in your own land hotter than an oven
Bombs mean scorching bodies
Hard to survive
We derive our own supplies with no regard we deprive
Graveyard or alive?
We safeguard our goodbyes with artillery
Does not allow us to remove the chains of captivity
Reality is such,
It touches on apprehensive
On the brink
Bordering on pensive
No time to lament as we unite this hour
No stopping as we fight the power
So join me when I say power to the people
Backed up with deeds not word all hollow and see through
Yes your people need you
Guaranteed, indeed to free you
Not just from a physical but from a mental corruption
Is clear as clean water
No more self-destruction.
The seduction that is endemic,
So thorough it’s systemic
Like an epidemic.
© Showman 2009