Hull City v Sheffield Wednesday: Odubajo inspired to make it by mum’s tragedy

Moses Odubajo in action for Hull City.
Moses Odubajo in action for Hull City.
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AS Moses Odubajo walks out at Wembley today, his brothers Idris and Tomiwa will be there looking on with pride.

So, too, will the legions of family and friends who are all desperate to see the 22-year-old fulfil his dream of becoming a Premier League footballer. Such is the demand, in fact, that Odubajo has had to find 38 tickets to ensure everyone can be there for his big day. Plenty of others have bought tickets elsewhere.

Moses Odubajo

Moses Odubajo

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All recognise the emotional journey that the Hull City full-back has been on to stand potentially 90 minutes from the Premier League.

Odubajo lost his beloved mother, Esther, when he was barely into his teens. Esther was a health worker. A strong and compassionate woman, she had moved from Nigeria to Greenwich, south east London, in the Eighties to set up home.

On a visit to Ghana nine years ago to help out at a health roadshow, she contracted malaria.

Esther had mistakenly believed that growing up in Nigeria meant she was immune to a disease that claimed around 438,000 lives alone in 2015. Treatment in Africa did not work and she died shortly afterwards, leaving her family devastated.

Odubajo, just 13 at the time, was hit particularly hard, admitting he lost interest in football for a time as grief consumed the whole family.

Life was tough and his two brothers played a big part in their sibling eventually coming to terms with his loss and then going on to become a professional football.

“I think about my mum all the time, if I am honest,” said the Hull full-back. “I have always tried to use my mum as a motivation in my career.

“When she did die, there were some hard times at home. I didn’t know where the next meal was coming from.

“For me to look back and see that is where I was and then where I am now, it is two different stages.

“I have used it as a motivation to kick on and do well, and then reach the big league. Fingers crossed, I can make her proud at Wembley.

“My brothers, Idris and Tomiwa, will be there. They always looked after me growing up. They have helped me progress and motivate me to get where I am. I owe a lot to my close family and especially my two brothers.”

Odubajo wants his story to be heard in the hope it can help others. He works closely with the Malaria No More charity, set up to help combat the deadly disease.

Last month, to coincide with World Malaria Day, Odubajo revealed his tale via the charity’s website and admits to being overwhelmed by the response.

“I have had a lot of reaction to it,” added the Tigers full-back. “People got in touch on Twitter saying it was an inspirational story. That was nice to hear after how far I have come.

“I wanted my story to be told and, hopefully, someone else out there going through a similar thing can seek help early before it gets worse like my mum. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone so, hopefully, I have helped someone.”

Victory today at Wembley for Hull City in the first all-Yorkshire Championship play-off final would bring the East Riding club riches beyond their wildest dreams in the shape of the £200m that is resting on the ‘winner-takes-all’ showdown.

It will also cap Odubajo’s gutsy fightback from the dreadful time that followed his mother’s death. Having been scouted by Millwall as a youngster, the Greenwich-born youngster spent time at The Den only to walk away in the wake of his tragic loss.

He did return to Millwall in time but failed to win a scholarship. A recommendation to Leyton Orient, however, started the journey that today will take Odubajo to Wembley for the second time in three years.

Unlike that 2014 visit when he was part of the Orient side beaten on penalties by Rotherham United in the League One play-off final, the Tigers full-back is determined to end the day on a happy note.

“I have got mixed emotions from Wembley,” he added.

“Scoring one and setting up another was great for me but when you lose that is what you remember.

“I don’t think I am going to score too many goals like that in my career. It is one I keep close to me. I have still got it recorded at home somewhere.

“I have told all the lads here about a million times and they are getting a bit frustrated by it but, as long as we win, I am not bothered who scores. If you win, all is forgotten.

“I feel ready for it again and hopefully, it is, a better outcome this time.”

If Hull can prevail today then Odubajo, a £3.5m signing from Brentford last summer, will finally have realised a major ambition.

“I don’t think words can describe how much it would mean to be a Premier League footballer,” he said.

“Every young footballer dreams as a kid to get to that level. To have this as a job and to get paid for it is one thing, to play in the Premier League, one of the biggest leagues in the world, would be even more special. It is dreams coming true.

“I don’t think it would actually kick in until August when a new season kicks off and we are travelling to an away game.”