FA Cup: Orphaned Victor Moses feels very much at home with Chelsea
The motto of Whitgift school in Croydon is Vincit qui patitur – "He who perseveres, conquers". If there was a GCSE in perseverance, former pupil Victor Moses would have passed it in tandem with the others he achieved five years after arriving from Nigeria in tragic circumstances as an orphaned asylum seeker.
He still declines to talk about how both his parents, devout Christians, were killed in a religious attack. But he landed in England aged 11, understandably bewildered and with football as his main means of communication. "Football helped me settle," he recalled at an EA Sports Fifa 13 event on Friday. "I started playing for a team called Cosmos in the Tandridge League before I went for a two-week trial with Palace. They must have liked what they saw."
Crystal Palace placed him at the fee-paying Whitgift, renowned for encouraging promising sportsmen, where the youth who would hardly speak came out of himself and added to the school's reputation by scoring all five goals in a national schools' cup final and winning caps for England at all age groups. Moses says that the then Palace manager, Neil Warnock, was encouraging, and when the financially stricken club moved him on, he was well enough advised not to sign for the biggest club expressing interest but to settle for unfashionable Wigan, where he would play games: "There was no point in me going to a bigger club and sitting on the bench," he said. "I got a chance and it was the right decision."
He blossomed under Roberto Martinez and from being a £2.5m player was valued at almost four times as much when Chelsea called last summer. With Daniel Sturridge moving out, there was a vacancy for a pacy wide player and he has complemented well the midfield technicians Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata. Left behind for the Europa League trip to Bucharest on Thursday, where a 1-0 defeat resulted, he can reasonably expect to start at Old Trafford in this afternoon's FA Cup quarter-final.
Having never played at Wembley or even seen a game there, he is now potentially 90 minutes away and not about to rock the boat, insisting of the manager, Rafa Benitez: "We want to play for the manager. He is a great manager who has had a great career. He has played me quite a lot this season and I just want to keep playing. We have been up and down a bit but we still have two trophies to play for. Hopefully we can win something."
In the meantime, despite having played for England Under-21s, he opted for Nigeria and two months ago was able, with club-mate John Obi Mikel, to help them win the Africa Cup of Nations. "It has helped [my confidence] a lot. It was a great honour for me to win it and represent Nigeria at the same time. Winning meant a lot to the people. They have never won anything for 19 years and it is a massive thing for them."
A sore ankle meant returning to Chelsea for treatment instead of joining the rest of the squad's celebrations, something he hopes to make up for that when going back in the next international break.
"Probably if I had waited a bit longer, I might have picked England," he now says; in which case, it was pointed out to him, he would have waited an awful lot longer to win a trophy.
Victor Moses appears in EA Sports Fifa 13 Ultimate Team. Build your squad, acquire new players and compete with your Ultimate Team. Buy Ultimate Team points at GAME.co.uk
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