Can I put these up on my Instagram?’ asks Paolo Odogwu, as he poses for images within the hip, graffiti-tagged backstreets of Birmingham.
His viewers is rising shortly. After Wasps’ victory over Bathtub final week, he gained 1,000 followers in a single night.
So who’s Paolo Odogwu? The Premiership’s rising star who was born in Coventry, idolised former Nigerian footballer Jay-Jay Okocha and eats pasta on Christmas Day.
Paolo Odogwu is the Wasps’ hot-stepper whose on-line following is rising shortly
Odogwu was born in Coventry, idolised footballer Jay-Jay Okocha and eats pasta on Christmas
‘A little bit of a cultural mash-up,’ chuckles the English, Nigerian and Italian hot-stepper.
Odogwu’s nationality is of explicit curiosity as a result of, over the approaching days, he will likely be requested to decide about which nation he needs to signify within the Six Nations.
‘I used to be born right here, my dad’s half-Nigerian, half-Italian and my mum’s absolutely Nigerian,’ he says. ‘I like watching Nigerian soccer. I really like the entire vibe. Till I went to secondary college, it was all soccer. Nobody in my household knew something about rugby. The primary rugby recreation they watched was me enjoying at college… as a prop!
‘One in all my idols was Jay-Jay Okocha. He had a lot ability and aptitude and I simply thought “I wish to be like him”. I like the concept of getting your individual particular person fashion and that is what I strive to usher in myself. I do not wish to play like anybody else… I simply need me to be me.’
Odogwu, 23, has stamped his identification all around the Premiership. Earlier than transferring on to his spectacular rugby credentials, he talks by his life away from the rugby pitch: college days, African music and his dad and mom’ upbringing.
‘My dad and mom had a fairly good background in Nigeria,’ he says. ‘My dad’s dad is a health care provider and my mum’s dad was a company lawyer. There is a huge wealth hole there, so you have got some individuals with non-public gates and armed safety, then others 5 minutes down the highway residing on the streets. Luckily, my dad and mom grew up well-educated and so they’ve instilled that in me.
The 23-year-old Odogwu has stamped his identification all around the Premiership in current months
‘Rising up, we went to Italy greater than Nigeria. It is simpler to get to, clearly. We used to go to Bologna yearly to see my dad’s household. We eat plenty of Italian meals. We’ve got a large seven-layer lasagne for the primary course on Christmas Day!’
Odogwu is closely invested in his roots. Final 12 months he took half within the Black Lives Matter marches and is a vocal campaigner on social media. He takes delight in his look. On the pitch, he stands out with red-flash dreadlocks and personalised boots, that includes designs akin to BLM and the NHS. For his photoshoot on trendy Gibb Avenue, he wears a customized leather-based jacket and tie-dye impact trousers.
‘When all the stuff with George Floyd occurred, I made a decision to Share my very own story,’ says Odogwu, who has had his personal experiences of racial prejudice. ‘I like to decorate a bit on the market. It is my very own fashion. I am assured in myself, so I like to precise that in my garments, my boots, my hair.
‘I customise all of these issues with hand-painted superhero designs, wrestlers or whoever. After I was youthful I used a bit of Sharpie pen however now I exploit precise paint. You aren’t getting any possibilities to replicate your persona in rugby, so I love to do it by my boots.’
It’s not simply his vogue and political statements which have been attracting the eye of worldwide coaches. As an attacking power, Odogwu has made extra metres and clear breaks than anybody else within the league this season.
His profession stalled when he was launched by Leicester and given restricted alternatives by Sale, earlier than Wasps signed him up in 2019, not too long ago shifting his place from wing to centre.
Odogwu has made extra metres and clear breaks than anybody else within the league this season
‘I’ve performed each recreation this season and proven what I can do, so it does really feel a bit like a breakthrough 12 months’, he says. ‘Leicester launched me a couple of years in the past and I roamed round for a few months, however I at all times backed myself to play within the Premiership.
‘At Leicester, it was much more of a standard forwards-based membership. Then Sale picked me up and so they have been someplace within the center. Coming to Wasps, they’ve at all times had game-breaking wingers who make breaks and rating tries. It is instilled on the membership.
‘For me, I cherished watching Paul Sackey, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde, Joe Rokocoko. All these guys have been sick freak athletes, however additionally they had their very own individuality and a little bit of swagger. Jason Robinson was one other one. They only owned it.’
And what about his personal fashion? ‘It is a bit like a hybrid NFL working again,’ says Odogwu.
‘Energy, pace, footwork blended collectively. Hopefully that makes me exhausting to defend towards. Taking over defenders, inflicting issues in defensive strains. Whether or not that is carrying tight in sticky areas to get a few yards or making a line break, I’ve acquired the construct to do each.
It isn’t simply his vogue and political statements which have been attracting consideration
‘Taking part in at centre has allowed me to get extra touches. I used to be at all times going to get possibilities on the ball, it is nearly whether or not you are taking them.
‘I really like the NFL. I am a giant Kansas Metropolis Chiefs fan. Kyler Murray is certainly one of my favourites. He is just about my peak and construct however he is a beginning quarterback within the NFL.’
Odogwu is rising with each efficiency. He has watched his age-group team-mates, akin to Ben Earl, Tom Curry and George Furbank set up themselves as worldwide gamers and now he’s enjoying catch-up.
His man-of-the-match efficiency towards Bathtub final week was one other step forwards, leaving extra individuals asking about his worldwide ambitions. ‘I am twin nationality so I might play for Italy or England.’
With England set to call a slimmed-down 28-man squad this week, the almost definitely state of affairs is that Odogwu holds out to see if Jones comes calling later within the 12 months. ‘It wasn’t one thing I would considered till it began getting blown up within the media this week! It is simply been a case of ‘let’s have a look at what occurs’. I’ve had a few little conversations with each, however nothing concrete.
‘If one thing feels proper, I am going to do it. I am not going to simply throw myself into the primary alternative as a result of that is probably not greatest for my growth. All the things’s taking place so shortly for me in the intervening time. The eye on me went up tenfold after the Bathtub recreation, so I am simply making an attempt to decelerate and course of what is going on on.’