Professionals | 17/11/2020

Interview

Tolu: “I can still learn everything here”

From the top tier in Latvia to the Bundesliga. Tolu Arokodare made a big step in his career with the move to Germany. In an interview with us, he spoke about his decision to join 1. FC Köln, the challenges that the Bundesliga poses and his personal development.

Tolu, it has been almost two months since your move to FC. How do you feel in the team and the city?
I feel great here and I’m still happy and thankful that I’m able to be here. For me, it is something quite special. I don’t regret anything. The step was important and the right one. Slowly, I’m getting used to the day-to-day routine. I was a professional in Latvia before I arrived, but it is another level here. This is the Bundesliga. Unfortunately, due to Corona, I haven’t been able to experience much when it comes to the city and the people. But our video analyst, Hannes has shown me a little of the city and I feel good here.

What are the biggest differences between football in Latvia and Germany?
I was ready for the next step but I knew beforehand, that the level here is a real step up. The intensity in the game is a lot higher. I still have to get used to that and I’m working on that every day.

FC is the biggest step of your career so far. What did you know about the club before the move?
As I heard that FC were interested, I was impressed, surprised and excited at the same time. Obviously, I know Lukas Podolski and that he started his career here. I also know that my fellow countryman, Sunday Oliseh played here as well. I then did a bit of research myself, about the fans, the city and the club. I heard that just before kick-off, the Hymne is played. I seen videos of it, with 50,000 fans singing in the stadium. That impressed me.

How did you begin your career?
I started playing in various academies in Nigeria. At the start, I was part of the Kash Academy and during my school years, it was International Academy. First school, then football. That was my daily routine. After that, I played for Box 2 Box FC in Lagos. The first big move then came with the transfer to Valmiera in Latvia.

What was it like for you to move away from home at 18 and move to Latvia?
It was a big step but it wasn’t difficult for me. From a young age, football has been my life. It is part and parcel of being a footballer, when you want to achieve something. It also wasn’t the first time. I played in front of SC Freiburg before. First, it was a weekend and then they wanted to see more of me and it became a month. Everything went well, but there were a few administrative problems. As someone who isn’t European, I wasn’t allowed to play for the reserves. I also played in front of Toulouse for a month, I was meant to come back and go through pre-season but the Visa was the problem. My agent and I then decided that Valmiera in Latvia would be a good move for me, and it was. That’s what helped me get to the Bundesliga, after all.

What are your biggest challenges at the moment?
I still have to get used to a lot of things. Everything here is more disciplined and simply more structured than in Latvia. I would describe myself as disciplined but, in Germany, discipline is of a different standard here. In Freiburg, I learned how strict Germans are when it comes to things like being punctual. You have to know how important it is to stop and listen, to dress properly and how to talk. In Nigeria, it is incredibly important to respect other people. In Germany, it’s also very important to show respect to one another. When it comes to respect, that isn’t difficult for me. The discipline, however, is new to me. The biggest challenge lies on the pitch and I have to get used to the Bundesliga’s intensity.

How do you see yourself? What do you have to work on?
You’ll never be perfect, no-one is. Even when you are really good, you have to keep on working. Especially myself. I’m still young and have it all in front of me. An example. Ronaldo was the best free-kick taker in the world and even he has to keep working, otherwise he’ll be overtaken.

How do you find your team-mates? Who helps you the most?
There is no-one in particular. I can definitely learn something from everyone here. The others are all on this level for a lot longer than I am. It’s something totally new for myself. I have to develop myself to the level where the others are and prove myself. I can learn lots from them. Away from the pitch, I get on well with lots of them: Iso, Easy, Jannes, Freddy, Rafa, Dimi. Everyone really (laughs).

In your first game for FC, you had your socks on the wrong way round. Were you that excited?
I don’t know what was going on there. I was completely focused and Iso told me afterwards. I didn’t realise it at all. But I’m also not the only one who it happened to; Dimi managed to make the same mistake as well. Now I know how the socks should be worn!

What do you want to achieve with FC? What goals do you personally have?
We are all concentrating on staying up at the minute. We have three points now and that is too few. We are working hard for our goal. I haven’t set any goals personally. If I help the team, that helps me as well. First the team, then myself.

Up next is Union Berlin. What are you expecting?
We want the first win. That would be really important for our confidence. Afterwards, it’s Dortmund and the next big task. Every game is incredibly important for us.

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