Latics guest player column: Francisco Junior

Francisco Junior
Francisco Junior

FIRSTLY I’d like to say how much I’m enjoying my time at Wigan.

It’s certainly a long way from where I started out in life.

Originally I am from Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa, and where all of my family still live.

Like any other African player, it was very difficult for me to leave home and become a footballer.

You have to want it 100 per cent.

Back home, you don’t have conditions like you have over here to play football.

You don’t have boots – sometimes you don’t even have food or water.

I still love my country, and I hope that one day I can do something for them.

It was a big decision for me to leave and move to Portugal for a chance to play for Benfica.

The biggest part of it was going to live in a foreign country without my family.

I was only 14, I didn’t have anyone with me, and I lived alone.

Basically I started from scratch.

I had to do everything for myself and I had to do everything by myself.

It was a good experience for me, though, and I knew I was doing everything I could to help my family back home.

I was also doing everything I could to help me become a professional footballer.

In Africa, sometimes you have to become a man before you are supposed to.

You are supposed to be young and enjoying your life, but at the age of 13 or 14 I was already taking care of myself and my family.

They were dependent on me and what I could make from football, and it wasn’t easy.

I am still taking care of them – every week I send money back home – and it’s something I’m very proud of.

I see players from England losing motivation to play football, and it makes me a little bit sad.

I’ve made sacrifices, but I prefer for my family to be able to eat and be happy.

They are in good hands now.

My brothers and sisters go to school, and that keeps me going every day.

My dad is a teacher and, if it was up to him, I would never have become a footballer.

He always wanted me to go to school, to learn languages.

I was good at school. But I preferred football.

I made a choice, and it has worked out good for me and my family.

When I first moved to Benfica, my life changed in every way possible.

It was a different culture, different people, and very good life experience for me.

I was playing football in proper surroundings.

In Africa, I had only ever played in the street.

That was a massive change, and I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to go to Portugal.

Back home I know there were players who were 10 times better than me that didn’t get that chance.

It was hard because I couldn’t speak Portuguese, and that was a problem when I moved to England to join Everton.

When I arrived I couldn’t speak one word of English.

I had to start all over again in a different country, and a different culture.

Now I am settled here – still on my own, but trying to enjoy myself and be happy playing footballer.

I wouldn’t say I’m completely ‘happy’, but what can I do?

I just have to keep going, that’s life.

Sometimes, trust me, it’s very hard to be alone when things are not going your way.

You don’t have anyone to talk to, anyone to help you, anyone to push you in the right direction.

You have to do everything yourself, and sometimes that can lead to you making the wrong decisions.

When you make a decision, it’s all on you – and you don’t know if it’s going to be wrong or right, there’s no-one to discuss it with.

It’s good in the sense it’s made me grow up and be a man, which I am now.

I am learning from all the mistakes I am making – many, many mistakes.

The last few years have also been the worst years of my life.

I lost my mum, and I just didn’t know what to do.

I started doing many, many things I wasn’t supposed to, like drinking and going out, because I didn’t have anyone to help me.

Now I am a lot calmer, I have tried to forget about that, and I am trying to focus fully on my career and my football again.

Right now I am focused on my football like I have never been focused before.

Being at Wigan Athletic is a big thing for me.

It’s a big club and they have given me so much support.

I’m a lot happier, and I’m enjoying my football a lot more.

I have had one or two injuries since I’ve been here which has been frustating.

But I’m hoping they’re out of the way now and I can have a good run in the team.

Everything depends on me and how I keep my focus.

If I can keep my fitness up and avoid injury, I can do my best to help the team and achieve my goals.

I really believe we have the team here at Wigan Athletic to win any games in this division.

Saturday’s game against Colchester is at home, we have to win that game, and we will do whatever we can to give back to the supporters what they have given to us.

We have drawn the last four games, we should maybe have won all four, but that’s football.

We can’t afford to look back, though.

We must look forward and try and win every game we have left.

Promotion was the aim at the start of the season, and I believe that is still a realistic target.

The gap between ourselves and the top of the league is not that great, and the season has only just started.

Francisco Junior was speaking to Paul Kendrick