Hero to Zero

Sport is a very fickle world. As parents clamour for their children to become a success in sport and earn enough money so that they never have to hold down a normal 9-5 job, many forget that sport should always be played for the enjoyment. They also forget how many young people it chews up and spits out.

The latest hot product in football Martin Odegaard made headlines eight months ago when he became the youngest international player making his debut for Norway aged 15 years and 253 days. He again hit the headlines when after turning 16 in January he was snapped up by Real Madrid. At the time it was rumoured that Manchester United, Liverpool and a host of other top clubs were looking to sign this young talent.

His starting salary was GBP80,000 a week. This for an unproven player. On arrival in Spain he was moved on to Castilla, Real Madrid’s reserve team, coached by Zinedine Zidane. Yet he was allowed to train with the first team.

It now looks as if the whole deal may end in tears. Odegaard apparently does not like playing in the reserves and not surprisingly his team mates do not like his five star treatment.

Zidane dropped him and the team won two games. The next game he was subbed after 65 minutes and Castilla scored the equaliser soon after. One Spanish newspaper giving players marks for their performance gave him a zero.

Talk is that his apparent apathy and poor passing ability will see him offloaded in the Summer. Many are asking whether he will attract interest from the big clubs in other parts of Europe or whether he is going to have to aim lower and re-establish himself.

Sadly there are many stories like Odegaard’s littering football. American Freddy Adu was the hottest young talent in football back in 2006, he even trained with Manchester United. He ended up at Benfica was loaned out to various clubs. Had a spell in Brazil and now plays for KuPS in Finland’s Premier League.

Cherno Samba was a 16 year old at Millwall in 2002 and Manchester United and Liverpool were scrambling to sign him. He too has been well travelled playing in England, Wales, Greece and Finland and now plays for Tonsberg in Norway’s second division.


Kaz Patafta was an Australian who was predicted to be the next big thing. He attended the AIS played U17 and U20’s for Australia and was signed by Benfica as a 16 year old on the recommendation of Guus Hiddink when he was Socceroos coach. Hiddink even took Patafta to Germany in 2006 for the World Cup Finals to train with the Socceroos squad. He was loaned to Melbourne Victory, released from his contract and then joined Newcastle Jets. In 33 games he failed to shine and dropped out of the A-League and played in Canberra and Sydney before heading to Thailand where he plays now.

Who knows may Odegaard might enjoy a spell in Australia to try and resurrect his young career. Let us all hope though that it is not indeed over before it has started.


Hero to Zero
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