Belgian-born Ghanaian defender Denis Odoi was instrumental for Fulham City as they secured the last ticket to the English Premier League following a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at the Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The 29-year-old started his career at Oud-Heverlee Leuven in Belgium having grown up alongside players like Dries Mertens, who will most likely be representing the pair’s country at the 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer.
Since then he’s played for Sint-Truiden before moving to Anderlecht, where he won’t two Belgian titles before making the move over to Lokeren and eventually Fulham.
But it could’ve turned out differently for Odoi, who was told when he was young that playing professional football wasn’t going to be an option for him like it was for Mertens, but despite that it was his goal that sent Fulham to Wembley.
“Since I was young I was watching Match of the Day and then coming to England to play and now that I’m going to play in the Premier League, I will say it’s a huge accomplishment,” he said.
“I was just a normal football player. I was never the best in my team.”
“A lot of those guys who were playing in the Premier League were playing in Serie A, I grew up with them. They were always better than me. I grew up with Dries Mertens – I have known him since I was five.”
“I was always playing with him and he was such a great player. Then I went to school and they asked me ‘what do I think I was going to be later because we all know you are not going to be a professional football player!’
“I did not take any offence to it. I was not obsessed by becoming a professional football player, I was studying and going to school, playing football and just enjoying myself, then one thing led to another.”
“[I would] probably a teacher in PE, because I was studying that in college when I was a professional footballer.”
The defender nearly cost his side victory after picking a red card with 20 minutes to the end of the match.
He is expected continue his rise to stardom with Slavisa Jokanovic’s outfit in the English Premier League.
Odoi made 41 appearances out of 46 matches and registered two goals in the English Championship League.