Ojo’s lov­ing life in ‘Promised Land’

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Dan Barnes

A ROL­LICK­ING from a Dutch great helped set Funso Ojo on his way to ar­riv­ing at the gates of the ‘Valhalla of foot­ball’.

The 26-year-old Bel­gian mid­fielder ar­rived at Gra­ham Alexan­der’s Scun­thorpe United on a free trans­fer from Ere­di­visie side Willem II in the sum­mer, achiev­ing a long-held am­bi­tion of break­ing into the English game.

His foot­ball ed­u­ca­tion couldn’t have be­gun at a more pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion.

The An­twerp-born Ojo came through the ranks at PSV Eind­hoven, the club that helped fos­ter the ca­reers of Ron­aldo, Ro­mario and Ruud Gul­lit.

Patrick Kluiv­ert and Phillip Cocu, too, as the Iron new-boy can at­test to first-hand.

“When I was 15, I played a friendly game with the first team,” he ex­plains.

“At that time, I didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate how big it was, but I was on the pitch with Kluiv­ert, with Cocu. All of those huge names.

“I was in the locker room. I asked one of the older play­ers, ‘Mis­ter, what time can we go out?’ and he was looking at me like, ‘how can you call me Mis­ter? I’m your team-mate’.

“That was (now re­tired mid­fielder) John de Jong.

“I can still re­mem­ber the game be­cause I played a ball with the out­side of my foot – and I thought it was a good ball – to the right-back but he didn’t con­trol it well.

“I looked at him like, ‘was it a bad ball?’ and Cocu started scream­ing at me, ‘just play nor­mal and don’t play with the out­side of your foot. We don’t do that here’.


“That put my two feet firmly on the ground!”

Hav­ing played in the Nether­lands and his na­tive Bel­gium, Ojo says that play­ers across Europe idolise the English game and, there­fore, a spell on these shores had al­ways ap­pealed to him.

He opted to join his for­mer PSV youth team col­league Kevin van Veen at Glanford Park and has am­bi­tions of ris­ing through the ranks as quickly as he pos­si­bly can.

“We say that Eng­land is the Valhalla of foot­ball.

“It’s the promised land,” added Ojo.

“At first, I re­ally set my mind on the Cham­pi­onship, but the way foot­ball is go­ing now, there’s so much money that clubs can buy who­ever they want and I didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence in English foot­ball.

“They’d rather take a player who has al­ready proved him­self in the English leagues, so, for me, Scun­thorpe is a way into Eng­land and, hope­fully, we can go up to the Cham­pi­onship to­gether. “I try to play the best I can to show my­self to the higher clubs and prove I’m ready for the higher leagues.” Ojo, who has slot­ted into Alexan­der’s side as a mid­fielder screen­ing the back four, is com­mit­ted to be­ing as model a pro­fes­sional as pos­si­ble, with his girl­friend Julie cur­rently liv­ing apart from him in Bel­gium, to al­low him to con­cen­trate on adapt­ing to life in Lin­colnshire.

In his younger days, he would spend his free time squan­der­ing his money on ma­te­rial goods, but now he keeps his mind fo­cused by ded­i­cat­ing him­self to the kitchen.


“When I get home, I go to get some gro­ceries ev­ery day be­cause I’m a lit­tle bit of a hobby chef,” said the for­mer Bel­gian Un­der-21 in­ter­na­tional.

“I try to spend as much time cook­ing as I can and just watch some series and doc­u­men­taries on Net­flix. That’s what I do.

“I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in the Asian kitchen, Thai food and things like that.

“Be­fore that, when I was even younger, you go out shopping to kill the time, but you’re spend­ing all that hard-earned money on stupid things. Now, I’m not do­ing any­thing un­healthy.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

LEARN­ING CURVE: Ojo is tack­led by Don­caster’s James Cop­pinger. Inset, for­mer PSV team­mate Phillip Cocu

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