Retiring cult hero Akinfenwa reflects on ‘mind-boggling’ career that brought him worldwide cultural acclaim

Ahead of a play-off final farewell, the veteran striker has reflected on a lengthy football life that has seen him gain rarefied status
Ahead of a play-off final farewell, the veteran striker has reflected on a lengthy football life that has seen him gain rarefied status

Cult hero footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa has admitted that his reputation off the pitch is bigger than his achievements on it, as the famed striker prepares to bow out with a Wembley farewell for Wycombe Wanderers.

Two years on from a League One play-off triumph, the 40-year-old striker is back at the national stadium for his final game, as he aims to help his club return to the second tier against Sunderland.

It is far from the first time he will have graced the pitch beneath the arch, in a lengthy career that has seen him gain rarefied cultural status – and the attacker admits that he finds his standing difficult to comprehend sometimes.

What has Akinfenwa said on his cult status?

“My status off the pitch is bigger than what I’ve done on it,” Akinfenwa reflected in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s mind-boggling for me. It’s humbling.

“I remember they did a Fifa poll [on the video game], about whose card they [the gamers] were most looking forward to playing with? It was either me or Messi, and I beat Messi. I was like: ‘What. Wait. What am I missing?’

On claims he can bench press any team-mate, he added: “I’m trying to look through the Marvel universe now, to see if Thanos wants to take me. I said I would end the game still the strongest and at 40 I don’t see anybody around here that can take my crown.”

What else has Akinfenwa said?

Across a career that has seen plaudits from some of the biggest names in the business – both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have hailed his drive – Akinfenwa says he is content in his self-worth without either compliment or criticism, of which he has weathered much.

“I am unapologetically myself,” he added. “Being who you are is the most powerful thing that we own as individuals. Some people will say: ‘He’s built like a rugby player, he’s built like a wrestler, I don’t get all the hype around him.’ It’s fine because we’re all entitled to our opinions but I do want people to know that the strongest thing that we own is our mind.

“If we believe it in ourselves, then we can achieve it. The mind is a powerful thing. If people say something, it doesn’t make it so. I was told I was too big to play football … and I’ve played this game for 22 years. I don’t need acknowledgement from anybody. I will sit down and say: ‘You know what, B, you did all right.'”

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