GLANFORD’S LIKE VALHALLA TO ME!
Ojo’s loving life in ‘Promised Land’
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.”
LEARNING CURVE: Ojo is tackled by Doncaster’s James Coppinger. Inset, former PSV teammate Phillip Cocu