A former Premier League star has opened up about their tough childhood and the extents they went to for food growing up in Cameroon before a career at the pinnacle of the game.
The ex-defender – now 37 – spent 18 years in senior English football before eventually hanging up their boots in 2022 to take on a role as manager of a Non-League outfit now in search of an FA Cup giant-killing.
The Cameroonian was on the books at 11 different clubs, and won titles in League One and the Championship – even scoring a winner to end Manchester United’s 29-game winning run in 2011.
After turning to management in January, they failed to keep their charges up at the end of a poor 2022-23, but this season have proven a revelation at the helm guiding their National League South outfit to second place and the Second Round of the FA Cup.
However before joining Dulwich Hamlet in 2004 this former player made do with kicking carrier bags or plastic bottles to hone his skills in bare feet.
George Elokobi scored the winning goal against Manchester United to end a 29-game unbeaten run in 2011
He is now looking to steer Maidstone United to the Third Round of the FA Cup by toppling Barrow 46 places above them
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In a wide-ranging interview, former Wolves defender George Elokobi told the Sun all about the struggles he faced as a youth.
‘Life was tough as a kid. My dad died when I was 10 of diabetes. He was my role model.
‘I sometimes had to go without meals. I was having to eat out of trash cans. I was a scavenger.
‘Also I hunted birds. I’d either used a catapult or set traps. I also had to catch and eat snakes or digest raw potatoes taken from the ground without even washing them.
‘I had to make do with anything I could put in my stomach.
‘It was a life without having real running water, where we had to walk miles to fetch water, then miles back.’
Despite admitting he never received any coaching until the age of 16 – after he was able to move to England once his mother secured a visa for Elokobi to study in the UK – he earned a move to Wolves from Colchester United for £500,000 in 2008.
Elokobi can boast something that not many strikers might be able to; despite spending the majority of his career as a centre back, the 37-year-old has scored at every single level of football from the Non-League South to the Premier League.
Having featured for 11 different clubs, Elokobi has scored at every level from Non-League South to the Premier League
‘I owe my whole football career to my mum because she got me over here and has been my rock,’ the ex-defender added.
‘As a youngster, I was a rough diamond and made up for any limitations in my ability with sheer hard work when I came to England.
‘From the moment I joined Colchester to the day I moved to Wolves I didn’t take a single day off. I spent every day improving myself.’
The Wolves cult hero took up a position as caretaker manager of Maidstone United – his final club as a player – in January this year, before being appointed on a permanent basis in March.
However it was before becoming the manager of his former side that Elokobi made one of the stranger career moves in his long stint in the English game.
‘It was a fantastic opportunity to be part of that episode,’ he said of his appearance in hit comedy series Ted Lasso, playing the role of one of Guardiola’s defenders for a fictionalised Man City side.
‘I hadn’t taken over as Maidstone manager yet so had a bit of time for such projects — and it was great to not only be part of the cast but see how it all works in the filming industry.
‘And of course it was an honour to be part of that scene with Pep and Manchester City — and spending a day filming at the Etihad.
‘Ted Lasso is a great show. I love that it paints a picture of a manager mucking about with football who becomes a master at the end.
Elokobi joined Maidstone United in 2019 from Aldershot Town before retiring from the game in 2022
The 37-year-old featured in an episode of Ted Lasso playing under a Pep Guardiola at a fictionalised Man City
‘In a lot of ways, it paints something that can happen for real. Anything is possible.’
And while promotion back to the National League has got off to the ideal start, he is now looking to take his side into the third round of the FA Cup by beating Barrow in League Two.
‘We’re going to give it our best shot. We know Barrow are a good side but no-one should write anyone off.
‘As you can see from my own journey, write me off at your peril.’
Elokobi is looking to pull off a shock win against Barrow on Saturday in front of a home crowd