Odei Martin: everything to play in the Football League

Two years ago, Odei Martin (Irún, 1997) abandoned the dream of being a footballer. After playing at Dunboa Eguzki and Real Unión de Irún, he started a university career and, as he himself confesses, he lost his grip. “I played at the Indartsu Club and went with the Vizcaya team despite being from Gipuzkoa, but I fed poorly and went out partying a lot,” recalls Odei, whose future plans they turned 180 degrees when one of his best friends was diagnosed with cancer: “Then I understood that if my dream was to be a footballer, I should launch myself to fulfill it.” Following in the footsteps of other Spaniards such as Joan Luque, Odei Martin enlisted in England THE Chance, a campus focused so that Spanish-speaking footballers can fulfill their dream of playing in England. The modest Heybridge Swifts FC netted him and, after two notable seasons – this season he scored five goals and handed out 16 assists – the goal of reaching the Football League is getting closer: “I know I am not a great player. I am a soccer worker, but I will fight to achieve professional English soccer”.

With Heybridge, Odei Martin has competed in the English Eighth Division, although his name already sounds to reinforce higher-class teams – Sixth clubs tempted him in winter. It is the prize for a path full of obstacles. The Basque went to England in secret, with a suitcase and a few dozen euros that he kept in cash in his wallet. Already at the London airport, where I was waiting for the organizers of England THE Chance, Odei met Joel, a young man from Santander with whom he quickly connected and who, surprise, took advantage of one of his trips to the bathroom to disappear with all his money. “I was thinking of touring the city and instead I had to 'live' in the disabled bathroom at the airport. It was the longest three days of my life.”

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Odei Martin celebrates a goal in England.

Despite the drawback, Odei Martin did win a contract in England, though at first his salary was so low that he had to work as a dishwasher to subsist. Sporty, Heybridge was not a path of roses for the Spanish either. He was injured in preseason and did not enter the call until October. By then Jody Brown, the coach who signed him, had already been removed. His replacement, a West Ham legend like Julian Dicks, maintained confidence in Odei Martin and made him debut with the 16th team in the table. Heybridge finished the 2018/19 campaign fifth, battling for promotion. Odei earned a raise and decided to be faithful to his coach, but Dicks left to be second to Slaven Bilic at West Brom. At the Swifts bench came Karl Duguid, with whom the team once again fought for promotion until the competition was suspended due to covid-19. “Saving the distances, I identify with players like Kanté or Casemiro. My great strengths are pressure and stealing the ball, but I also have an arrival, “says Odei, whose five goals and 16 assists, four of them in the same match-club record-endorse this course.

Two years and a confidential trip to London later, Odei Martin is much closer to becoming a professional footballer. “As a child I fell in love with the way people squeeze in the stadiums in England, how they celebrate a corner, the rhythm of the matches … Everything here is unique and I doubt very much that I will return to Spain. There is a lot of level, but little money “, confessed the Basque after achieving something practically impossible in his native country: living from soccer playing in the eighth category of national soccer. His friend, by the way, beat cancer. Twice, in addition. That illness also changed the life of Odei, who already dreams of dedicating his first triumphs in the Football League: “I am very proud of him. He gives me the strength to continue. I owe him everything.”