JORDAN BOTAKA’S journey from Africa to Leeds has been, as the winger is the first to admit, a “difficult” one.
The 22-year-old left the Republic of Congo with his parents as a youngster to escape the country’s civil war and settled in Europe.
A new life was forged in the Low Countries, where Botaka’s football skills quickly marked him out as an exciting prospect.
His move to Elland Road came from Dutch club Excelsior shortly before the summer transfer window slammed shut.
However, his all-important formative years came in Belgium with Anderlecht and Club Bruges.
Looking forward to a possible debut today at home to Brentford, Botaka has just one regret – his father passed away before a career that has also included a loan stint in Portugal truly got up and running.
“I am very proud (to be in Leeds) because I came from very far away,” said the wideman.
“A lot of people didn’t expect me to come this far.
“I always had faith and confidence in myself.
“It was my dream to come to England and to play in the Premier League. Do you make all your dreams happen? You try.
“I am here in the Championship first and I want to win games so we can go up. I wanted this.”
Asked about the family’s move to Europe when he was a young boy, Botaka replied: “My path has been difficult.
“It made me stronger and it made me the man I am today. I am not happy with what happened. It doesn’t make me happy to think about that because no one would be happy with that.
“But it happened and you live with it. You try to rise from that. It made me very strong. I can say that now. It made me a very strong person. It made me get to where I am now. I had to deal with it.
“My father would have been very proud. It would be different if he was here and I wish he was. I would like him to have seen this, but my dream is to continue making him proud.
“We had a plan together. He is not here any more so I’ll have to finish it.”
Leeds represent an exciting new chapter for the 22-year-old, even if he freely admits to not realising the true extent of the club’s history when the first approach was made.
This is not, necessarily, a surprise. Botaka was not born when United last won a major trophy, while he was just 10 years old when the club last played in the Premier League.
A quick check on Google, however, and the Congo international was up to speed about his new employer.
What he read has also left Botaka eagerly looking forward to making his Elland Road bow.
“It will be madness, I think,” he said in reply to being asked what he is expecting today.
“Crazy. I have heard already a lot about supporters from Leeds United. I really want to see it. It will take my breath away from a moment.”
Since it first emerged that Leeds were seriously interested in Botaka, the club’s supporters have been cranking up the number of hits on a Youtube package featuring his skills.
It is an impressive montage and one that suggests Uwe Rosler’s eighth signing of the summer is capable of making a big impact in English football.
Only time will tell, of course, but, for his part, Botaka insists he has settled in very quickly at the Championship club.
“It is good to be at Leeds,”said the newcomer.
“The players, they are very good with me. They have tried to show me the club and the city also.
“The transfer window was almost closed so I didn’t expect to make a transfer any more – even though I wanted to get a transfer after last season.
“But then, in the last week, everything went so quick.
“It was for me a surprise. I was surprised, but my decision was made quickly.”
Asked if the attention his transfer has generated has come as a shock, Botaka smiled before adding: “In my head, I am calm.
“The thing is just to be myself and to show people what I can do. To always do my best and the football world is a bit hard, strange.
“When you do good, everyone loves you. When it does not go the way you want it to go, everyone will hate you. You just have to keep calm in your head.
“I’ve had a lot of attention especially because it’s a big club.
“But I know who the real people around me are – I know my real people. I know who has supported me from the beginning, through good and bad.
“I am just trying to be myself and show what I can do, what I can bring for the club.
“What people have been seeing on YouTube is just natural, it happens.
“When it happens in the game, it happens not like that – not because I’m promising that I’m going to do something. It happens naturally.
“I don’t have a special number in my head, but I want to score as much as possible and to assist as much as possible.
“I know it won’t be easy because the Championship is another level. The intensity and the speed of the game here is a lot quicker and faster than in Holland. But I am excited about being at Leeds.”