Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Mak­ing mum proud

WHEN you’ve lost two years of your ca­reer to in­jury and missed out on play­ing in the Pre­mier League, it would hit most play­ers hard. But if any­one can put that into its proper per­spec­tive it’s Brent­ford de­fender Moses Odubajo. He suf­fered the death of his beloved mother Es­ther from malaria when he was just 13 years old.

The tragic way it hap­pened only added to his grief. His mum had trav­elled to Ghana to help out on a health road­show.

She was sure she had im­mu­nity to malaria be­cause she had grown up in Nige­ria, but it wasn’t the case. When she was di­ag­nosed with malaria and grew weak, she de­cided she wanted to get treated in African rather than in the UK.

She trav­elled to Uganda to see a doc­tor who had been rec­om­mended, but, sadly, she never re­turned.

“As kids, we (Moses and his broth­ers Tom and Idris) didn’t know the ex­tent of what she had, we just thought she’d come down with a heavy flu which could be treated in Africa. That wasn’t the case.

“It was tough. When she didn’t come back, I was in a state of shock for sev­eral months. That’s how I dealt with it but my broth­ers cried and let it all out.”

That hap­pened back in Septem­ber 2006 and al­most a decade later his story started to make news at the same time as his foot­ball ca­reer was gath­er­ing pace.

Char­ity Malaria No More UK heard about it and got in touch.

“I thought that if there was some­thing I could do to help so that a fam­ily didn’t have to go through what me and my broth­ers went through, then I’m all for it,” he said.

“As the years have gone on, I’ve ended

up be­com­ing a spe­cial am­bas­sador for them.

“The statis­tics that you read about the dis­ease are crazy. A child dies ev­ery two min­utes in Africa, which is mad when you think about it. Just £1 could save some­one’s life.”

At Brent­ford’s game against Bris­tol City in Oc­to­ber, there were col­lec­tions for Malaria No More UK, an­other sign of the im­pact Odubajo is hav­ing in rais­ing aware­ness and funds to fight the deadly dis­ease.

It’s a far cry from the days when he, not sur­pris­ingly, lost in­ter­est in foot­ball fol­low­ing the death of his mother. Later, grief turned into mo­ti­va­tion to be­come a pro­fes­sional foot­baller and a bet­ter per­son.

The Greenwich-born right-back came through the ranks at Ley­ton Ori­ent and es­tab­lished him­self in the first team af­ter spells on loan with St Al­bans, Sut­ton United and Bishop’s Stort­ford.

He shone in the 2013-14 sea­son for the O’s as they reached the League One play-off fi­nal. He even scored a beauty in the fi­nal, but the O’s lost on penal­ties to Rother­ham.

None­the­less, he stepped up a divi­sion to join Brent­ford that sum­mer, re­port­edly for a club record £1m. He pros­pered at the higher level, switch­ing from rightwing to right-back along the way.

Again, how­ever, there was play­off pain for Odubajo as the Bees lost to Mid­dles­brough in the semi-fi­nals.

Af­ter just one sea­son at Grif­fin Park, he moved to fel­low Cham­pi­onship out­fit Hull City for £3.5m. This time, there was to be play-off joy as the Tigers beat Sh­effield Wed­nes­day 1-0 at Wem­b­ley.

Odubajo was set to ful­fil a dream and play in the Pre­mier League. But then dis­as­ter struck – he dis­lo­cated his kneecap in a pre-sea­son friendly against Grimsby and then later suf­fered a frac­ture to the same kneecap.

It cost him two sea­sons. This sum­mer, Odubajo re­turned to Brent­ford and he played his first se­nior match in more than two years when the Bees lost 3-1 at Arse­nal in the Carabao Cup in late Septem­ber.

His early life ex­pe­ri­ences have no doubt played a part in giv­ing him that ex­tra bit of re­silience that oth­ers might not have.

“When foot­ballers get hit with longterm in­juries, it causes de­pres­sion and a lot of things,” he said. “Foot­ball be­comes your life, you sleep and drink foot­ball. If some­one takes that one thing away from you, you think what do I do now, I feel use­less.

“When I sat down with the sur­geon who said it was go­ing to be 12 months or some­thing, it was a kick in the teeth, but, you know what, I thought there are more strings to my bow, this isn’t the end, there will be a come­back.

“Aside from my re­hab, I watched a lot of se­ries on Net­flix, I took up an­other lan­guage, Span­ish, which I’m still learn­ing. It took my mind away from foot­ball.

“When I got back play­ing, it was more like re­lief - the dark cloud has lifted. It was a big sigh of re­lief.

“I’m not where I want to be phys­i­cally

but I’ve just got to be thank­ful that af­ter such a long spell out, I’m back play­ing.

“I just want to play as many games as pos­si­ble this sea­son – to show ev­ery­one that I’m fit and I can still do what I did be­fore.”

That Pre­mier League am­bi­tion is still in­tact. And, at 25, he still has time on his side to make it hap­pen.

Per­haps it will be with Brent­ford, who have come on leaps and bounds over the last decade or so and plan to move into a plush new 17,250-seater sta­dium at Li­onel Road, less than a mile away from Grif­fin Park, for the start of the 2020-21 sea­son.

“My dream as a kid was to get to the Pre­mier League,” said the for­mer Eng­land U20 man. “I got there but didn’t get the chance to play.

“This time around it would be great and the club de­serves to be up in the Pre­mier League. There’s po­ten­tial for this club to go all the way.

“We’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion, the am­bi­tion is big, the new sta­dium speaks for it­self. I ac­tu­ally live across the road from it!

“There’s a lot of ta­lent in this team. Peo­ple used to think it was lit­tle old Brent­ford, but now teams are com­ing to Grif­fin Park think­ing let’s just de­fend. It’s a credit to the boys. There is some­thing spe­cial here.”

Af­ter all he’s been through, no-one would be­grudge him a Pre­mier League chance.

Back in the big time: Brent­ford’s Moses Odubajo on the ball in the Carabao Cup tie at Arse­nal

Big mo­ment: Odubajo cel­e­brates scor­ing for Ley­ton Ori­ent in the League One play-off fi­nal in 2014

Glory day: Hull’s Moses Odubajo, cen­tre, cel­e­brates play-off fi­nal vic­tory with Steve Bruce and An­drew Robert­son in 2016

Pain game: Odubajo limps off at the start of his in­jury agony

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