Born in the War torn country of Congo, Ode Fulutudilu (30) and her family found refugee in South Africa where she met what is now her bread and butter, Football.
The talented footballer shares the story of her upbringing to becoming one of the most recognised faces of Women’s football in South Africa.
“That experience allows you to mature mentally at a much young age that gives you an edge to other children who are about the same age. It gave me an experience that many children don’t get to experience which teaches you very early that life is not all about you. That there is a bigger picture to every experience that we get to go through,” said Fulutudilu.
She fell in love with football at a young age after watching the 1998 World Cup.
“I fell in love with football when I was 8 years old during the 1998 world cup which was my first ever tournament that I watched and followed all the way to the final,” she added.
Part of her dreams growing up was to get educated, because she knew how hard life was for her parents as they didn’t get a chance to study.
“It was not always my dream to become a professional soccer player. That dream only came when I finished University. My dream growing up was just to get a education because I knew with education I could have a better life than my parents who were not able to finish their education,” the attacker said.
She later studied and played for Lee University. Where she gave her all to both her studies and the game, since football in USA is very different from South Africa.
“I studied BA in Sociology, Social work. The league was physically and mentally demanding that made you give everything of yourself. Everything was on a different level to what I was used to in South Africa and that was a breath of fresh air as the league in SA was still developing. The players mentally was extremely professional in how serious they took what they were doing and their own responsibilities,” Fulutudilu explained.
She received her first Banyana Banyana call up in the latter stages of her schooling at the university and had described that call up as life changing for her.
“I got my first call up towards the end of my last few months at University which came at the perfect time because that long distance traveling was really brutal. It was an amazing feeling when that first call up finally happened as it also came at the perfect time. We were due to play Zimbabwe and the team has new coaching stuff with a few other new players. It was a new era for women’s soccer in South Africa and I am glad I was able to be part of it,”
She later played for Cape Town Roses, and was part of the team that won the Western Cape Sasol League and Coke Cup, and finished as runners-up in the 2017 Sasol League National Championships.
“That year with Roses was really something special for me and for the team. Especially because the previous year we lost the league to UWC so it was an amazing feeling to get the league back and the way we did it on the last whistle was even better. It was a lot of hard work from everyone and we really played well as a group. I am glad I was able to accomplish all that in my last year with Roses. That journey was amazing and I am glad I was able to do it with that group of players for that team,” she added.
Fulutudilu got her professional big break with ONS Oulu Women in Finland where she scored 15 goals in 23 games, in which she says the fire within her kept her motivated.
“The thing that kept me motivated during my first year of pro-life was the hunger and fire that was within me that had been building since I was first dropped from the national team. I wanted to prove that I belonged at that level and that all the time that I was being over looked in the past few years was a mistake. I have always had the belief on my abilities and I knew that people had no seen my best. That first year at ONS I wanted to show everyone else what I already knew about myself,”
Fulutidulu says her experience with Spanish Primera Iberdrola side Malaga was beyond amazing because of the support that they received from the people in Spain.
“Malaga was a great platform that prepared me for the world cup that year. The country and people are really beautiful. The league is extremely well supported by the community which was a great thing to see for women’s football. The weather was beautiful and most fields that we played in was magnificent,” she said.
The attacker described her Banyana call up for the World Cup as a dream come true because most players hardly get that opportunity.
“Playing at the world cup was a dream come through that many not only female but soccer players in general don’t get to experience. It is something that no one can take away from me that I have played there and not many people can say that,” she added.
She recently went back to Finland where she is currently playing for Anland United.
“It feels good to be back in Finland. I believe I am meant to be here at this time of my career. There is a reason why I am back here and once the season starts everyone will see why. It is not the most glamorous leagues to be at but it is definitely what I need this year and I am extremely grateful that it is with this team,” she said.
Her motto in life is luck meets opportunity.
“Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you are not ready when the opportunity comes knocking then you won’t be lucky,” she concluded.