Black History Month

Amadou Onana on the people who've inspired him

26 Oct 2023
Onana, Bryant

Everton midfielder talks about role his mum and sister have played in his career, and his sporting idols

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The support of family can help a person achieve great things. And with the theme of Black History Month being "saluting our sisters", Amadou Onana has highlighted the role his mother and sister played in his development as a professional footballer.

"[My mum] raised three kids on her own without any help," said the Everton midfielder, in an interview you can watch below.

"She is the one who taught us all the values we have: being kind, showing respect and being nice. She is such a warrior because she used to have different jobs as well to take care of her kids.

"My mum sacrificed her life for our dreams. Because we were the ones who wanted to move to Belgium for different reasons - school and football for me.

See: Onana honours mum and sister

"She had to give up her dreams to make ours a reality. She is an inspiration to me. 

"I can never thank her enough, which is why I am trying to succeed in terms of what I am doing. She is a warrior to me, one of the strongest people I know.

"She gave up on a lot, came into a new country where you have no family or friends and you have to build a new life, which wasn't easy at all, but I'm very proud of my mum."

Onana has also revealed how important his sister Melissa was in helping him realise his potential.

"She has played a massive part in me becoming the man I am today," Onana said. "She is the one who supported me and has been there my whole career, from the age of 12 or 13. 

"She followed me all across Belgium and people used to tell her that her little brother might have something different than the other kids, and she took it very seriously. She came to every game. Whether it was freezing, raining or sunny, she always came through. 

"She started recording me on the pitch, which was how I got the trial at Hoffenheim. Because of all that, she played a crucial part in my life. It's a crazy story."

'Moments I use as fuel'

During Onana's trial days at Hoffenheim, Melissa was diagnosed with cancer. Yet despite the treatment, she remained committed to facilitating his journey.

"She'd just started her chemotherapy - shaved head and things such as that," he said. "These are the moments I use as fuel to keep me going. It drives me. Having two strong women in my life who were sick was a big motivation on a daily basis. 

"Hoffenheim is in the middle of nowhere in Germany, so we had to take the train, then change trains, carrying the luggage. She was on crutches. It was a tough journey looking back to it but I am glad that we made it here. That journey just shows how strong she is as a woman. 

"We have a solid relationship. It's not easy to work with your siblings, but we make it easy and have a great relationship and partnership, I guess you could call it because she is my agent now. But she's still my sister." 

Onana and his sister Melissa
Looking up to others

Even now, as one of Everton's best players, Onana still draws inspiration from other sporting greats for inspiration.

"Kobe Bryant is the reason why I wear his number, his No 8," said Onana. "He was a player I really looked up to growing up because of his work ethic, mentality and all the things that come with it," Onana said.

"Growing up it wasn't easy [for Bryant], which is similar to me, so through him I knew it was understood it was possible to make it as a young black athlete and to be a legend."

Also in this series

Part 1: How the Premier League is fighting racism
Part 2: How Sarr's family prepared him for success
Part 3: West Ham achieve Premier League equality standard
Part 4: How clubs and players supported No Room For Racism campaign
Part 5: Ogbene: It's important to teach younger generation about diversity
Part 6: Danjuma: My greatness comes from going through hardship
Part 7: How Wolves are educating young people about inclusion
Part 8: 'It's everyone's responsibility to do something about discrimination'
Part 9: Caicedo: Learning through diversity helped me reach the top
Part 10: Darren Bent on the men and women who've inspired him
Part 11: Benjamin Zephaniah on the Premier League and the legacy of Windrush
Part 12: Desailly: I looked far for my black sporting heroes
Part 13: Jimenez: Family support helped me become great
Part 14: Pittman: Sharing my knowledge will help the next generation
Part 15: Szoboszlai: My father helped me achieve the impossible
Part 17: Why family support is so important for Mbeumo and Wissa
Part 18: Gomez: Positive black role models are so important

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