We discover a football success story with a difference

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It is not difficult to see why George Elokobi is revered as a cult figure at Molineux.

Charismatic, cheerful, carefree and charming company, the Wolves defender is determined to enjoy every moment after realising his ‘dream’ of playing in the Barclays Premier League.

Few can blame him given the trials and tribulations he has been through in football and life. Losing his father to diabetes when he was just 11 instilled a mental strength that was tested again when he suffered a serious knee injury a decade later after emigrating to England from Cameroon.

Yet Elokobi has overcome these and numerous other setbacks and his infectious smile is never far away.

A career in accounting looked on the cards when he moved to London in 2002 after attending boarding school, but Elokobi was headstrong and had other ideas.

“It was quite funny because when I came over to England my intention was to study, get a degree and get a job,” says the 24-year-old. “My mother was very strict with me carrying on my education. She came over to further her studies as well and I joined her after I’d finished my GCSEs.

“Moving to England was the best thing that happened to me. It was a fairytale story because it was hard for me and my two older sisters to be apart from our mum.

“She knew I could play football, but she didn’t want me to get involved in the first place. But I was a bit stubborn. I went to the park and started playing park football, that’s when it all started.”

It was not long before he was invited to join the ASPIRE scheme, a programme devised by Gavin Rose and Junior Kadi to nurture youngsters in Dulwich. The guidance of Rose and Kadi proved essential in transforming Elokobi’s potential into a player propelled from non-league to Premier League in the space of five short years via a spell at Colchester and a Championship-winning campaign at Wolves.

He confesses: “When I had my first training session with Dulwich youth scheme I was very raw. I had raw talent and had never been coached properly before. I didn’t know positioning play or anything. I was just full of energy and was excited to chase the ball.

“Gavin and Junior told me that if I listened and I learned then I could have a career in the game because they felt I had all the attributes to make it. I did that and got scouted by Colchester, who gave me my first professional contract.”

Having been its major success story since it started eight years ago, Elokobi is more than happy to throw his support behind ASPIRE whenever the chance arises.

Elokobi also raised more than a few eyebrows when he bared all and posed naked along with Wolves team-mate Kevin Doyle as part of the Everyman campaign to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer back in March.

“If I can help give something back to the community, I’m going to do it,” he stresses. “From time to time when I have a day off I go down to Dulwich and help the younger boys there. I just tell them what professional football is all about and what it takes to try and make it. Hopefully some of them will follow in my footsteps.”

Wolves signed Elokobi on transfer deadline day in January 2008. However, in August of the same year he damaged multiple ligaments in his knee and was sidelined for over eight months. As testing a time as it was, he had endured greater hardship in the past.

“Losing my father made me a strong person mentally and physically and I’m capable of going through anything,” he states.

“When I got injured - which was the first time I’d ever been injured - the first thing that people told me was to try and win the battle in my head and to let myself know I can come back from this because it is not the end of the world. It is part of the game.

“I was mentally strong and thankfully now I’m back to full fitness and just want to keep improving as a player. Getting Wolves into the Premier League was a massive thing for us and to keep the club up last season was a dream come true. Now the target is to improve again this season.”

* Story supplied by kind permission of Players' Club - the official magazine of the PFA.

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Premier League
George Elokobi
Wolverhampton Wanderers

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