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FC Halifax Town: Mike Fondop-Talom - from Cameroon to Calderdale

Michael Fondop-Talom in action for Oxford City. Picture: Mike Allen
Michael Fondop-Talom in action for Oxford City. Picture: Mike Allen

If anyone is needed to crunch the numbers during the run-in of Town’s bid to beat the drop, Mike Fondop-Talom is the man.

The 24-year-old made his Town debut as a substitute in the 2-0 win over Hartlepool on Tuesday after joining on loan from Guiseley.

He has crammed plenty into his six years in England since moving from his native Cameroon.

He grew up in Yaoundé, the country’s capital, and combined forging a career in football with gaining a first class honours degree at Essex University in actuarial sciences, which applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in insurance and finance.

While he is yet to make the top grade in football, he has worked his way up to the fifth tier from the likes of Whitehawk, Stanway Rovers, Billericay and Oxford City, where he scored eight goals in 27 games in 2016-17.

“I had some teams in the First Division that wanted to sign me when I was in an academy back home when I was 18, but I decided to come here for studies,” he said.

“I don’t know what would have happened if I’d stayed but I knew there were more opportunities here football-wise.

“All my family is back home, but sometimes you have to leave the nest and try to fly with your own wings, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

“To be a man sometimes you have to take tough decisions.

“I have made a lot of sacrifices, leaving behind my family.

“I could have chosen England, Germany or the USA for my studies, but I knew football in England is a culture, a tradition, and everyone dreams of playing in England because it’s tough but exciting.

“Back home, they told me my physique is like a Premier League footballer’s, so they were encouraging me to come here.

“Also the financial sector in England is very strong.

“It was the best decision I could have made.

“I have come this far and I won’t stop now. I will keep going.”

Fondop-Talom admits he is one of the lucky ones to have emigrated to Europe, and is determined to make the most of his opportunity.

“I enjoyed growing up in Cameroon but the only bad thing is the lack of opportunities for young people,” he said.

“The unemployment rate is quite high and we have a President who has been there for 30 years, but it’s been a mess for the last three or four years because people want change.

“When you go abroad it’s difficult but it’s somehow better because you find opportunities you don’t have back home.

“It wasn’t easy at the beginning, getting used to the food and the culture. Sometimes you encounter discrimination and racism but if you start thinking too much about that it can affect you.

“Discrimination has been there for the past 40 years and more and it’s still there. I’m not going to change that.

“All I can do is focus on what I came here to do. I don’t regret coming to England though.

“I’m lucky to get opportunities that some or most don’t have. Not everyone gets a visa to come and study in England.

“It’s tough to leave Africa to come to Europe.

“I’m really praiseful to the Lord and my family for that. My parents sponsored my studies. They had to pay about £10,000 a year so I had to give them my best in my studies.

“I couldn’t achieve anything less than a first. And it’s the same in my football.”

The forward believes he has a chance of playing in the Football League.

“Most of my coaches have told me I’ve got everything that’s needed,” he said.

“I know eventually something will happen if I get a chance. But that’s football, these things can happen so quickly.

“I didn’t want anything less than League Two but sometimes football isn’t about what you want.

“Paul Cox gave me an opportunity at Guiseley and for me it was a great move.

“I scored a couple of goals early on and played against Accrington Stanley and Mansfield, and made some history with the lads by getting the furthest the club has gone in the FA Cup in their history.

“I did well at the start but after that I had some injuries that impeded my progression and that’s when I started dropping down the pecking order.

“When I came back from injury things started changing, we didn’t have good results, the gaffer was bringing in new players.

“We’ve got about 40 players there. It’s mad.

“There are a few part-time lads still there and I think the club is still in that transitional period moving to being full-time.

“I was left out of the squad at Guiseley last Saturday, which is the first time that’s happened since I joined them.

“So I knew that was probably the time to leave, especially when I got the loan offer from Halifax.”

The six foot, three inch striker describes himself as strong and physical with loads of pace.

“Most people compare me to Drogba and Lukaku,” he said. “I think I’m more like Messi!

“When I get the ball I’ll try to play like him but people say ‘that’s not you, just play to your strengths, be a target man!’

“Paul Cox, my previous gaffer, told me ‘focus on your DNA, look at yourself in the mirror and know what your identity is, and once you know that, focus on it’.”

Asked what it would mean to him if he became a professional footballer, Fondop-Talom replied: “I would say thanks to God. I’m a strong believer and my family’s quite religious.

“If he’s brought me this far, it’s not for me to stop here. He’s got something for me so I’ll keep believing.

“Whether it’s a professional club at any level, I’ll just say thank you.

“The one thing I know I have to do is work hard, keep the faith and see what happens.”