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Who Is Dapo Afolayan? Journey From English Non-league to Bundesliga

Dapo Afolayan, once beloved at Bolton Wanderers, netted two goals against Osnabruck, propelling FC St. Pauli into the Bundesliga.

Securing a convincing 3-0 victory at the Millerntor Stadium, the German side clinched all three points, even though one would have sufficed to secure their automatic promotion.

  1. How old is Dapo Afolayan?

    26

Dapo Afolayan Image Credits Twitter jpg Who Is Dapo Afolayan? Journey From English Non-league to Bundesliga
Dapo Afolayan, Image Credits – Twitter

Afolayan demonstrated his prowess before halftime, scoring twice and providing an assist for Marcel Hartel’s goal with a well-placed cross.

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Dapo Afolayan’s Journey: From Wanderers to Bundesliga Promotion

Afolayan, boasting 33 appearances across all competitions and 10 goals this season, has emerged as a pivotal figure. The 26-year-old transitioned from Bolton to St. Pauli in January 2023, initially joining on loan from West Ham before sealing a permanent move the following summer.

His impact was evident as he netted 14 goals during the 2021-22 campaign, earning him the title of Bolton’s Player of the Year. Ian Evatt recently confirmed Wanderers’ financial benefit should St. Pauli secure promotion.

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Despite facing setbacks, including his departure from Chelsea’s youth setup due to prioritizing academics over football, Afolayan’s journey led him through various clubs, including Toronto, Barnet, Tooting & Mitcham, and Loughborough University, before his stint at West Ham in 2018.

Following a brief spell at Solihull Moors, the Harrow-born forward’s career saw flashes of brilliance, such as his goal in a 4-0 FA Cup victory over Doncaster in 2021, despite limited opportunities during his tenure at West Ham.

Before committing long-term to Bolton in February 2021, Afolayan gained experience through loan spells at Oldham, Mansfield, and his parent club, West Ham.

When I joined the club I saw what the fans are like, the history behind the club and everything it stands for,” he told talkSPORT.

Dapo Afolayan Image Credits XTwitter Who Is Dapo Afolayan? Journey From English Non-league to Bundesliga
Dapo Afolayan, Image Credits – X (Twitter)

To go on the whirlwind run we have done in the last 18 months, culminating in promotion this season, it is special. Sunday was quite overwhelming.

At first, I was a bit sceptical because you tend to see players younger than me going abroad and coming to Germany.”

There were a few (interested) clubs in the Championship at the time. My thing has always been that I want to test myself and take myself to the next level to see where I can play.”

It was a really good opportunity and I came about to visit. Once I met the manager (Fabian Hurzeler), at the time he was only 29 and when he spoke to me about how he wanted us to play, I was sold on the project.”

Afolayan may soon find himself facing off against formidable opponents like Harry Kane in the Bundesliga. Since the beginning of the season, the ex-West Ham player has notched 10 goals in 33 appearances for his current German club.

(Hurzeler) has been fantastic for me,” he continued. “He is really young but his football brain – and how he coaches – is the best I have seen.”

He has transformed us into a really good side. His attention to detail and the way he improves players – I think everyone has improved and that helped take us over the line this year.”

(The atmosphere) is special. Every single game I have been at has been sold out, tickets are hard to come by.”

If I see any Brits at the games, they tell me they have bought tickets years in advance and planned it. Not many teams like coming to play us and hopefully we can make it a fortress next season.”

Dapo Afolayan’s Transition and Evatt’s Pride

During his final complete season at Bolton, Afolayan scored 14 goals, earning him the prestigious Player of the Year award from the club.

Reflecting on his transition to the German second tier, he expressed surprise at the level of competition, stating, “To be honest, I was really shocked at how high the standard was.”

I have watched a lot of Championship games and thought it would be quite similar to that. European football is quite different, it is sometimes more tactical.”

There are a lot of different tactical nuances and that was the biggest thing for me, adapting and getting used to it.”

In League One football, there are so many different variable. You have got to think about pitches, weather conditions and physical teams.”

But here we go into a lot of tactical detail and video every single day. We watch teams back all the time and work on a lot of things.”

It is testament to the way we have played this year because we work tirelessly and everything is meticulous.”

Dapo Afolayan Image Credits X Who Is Dapo Afolayan? Journey From English Non-league to Bundesliga
Dapo Afolayan, Image Credits – X

Ian Evatt, speaking to The Bolton News last month, expressed his pride in Afolayan’s success at St. Pauli and disclosed intentions to visit him.

Additionally, the Bolton manager confirmed that the club stood to benefit financially if Hurzeler’s side achieved promotion.

The plan was for him to possibly come to the game (on Sunday) but obviously Bolton weren’t able to go up automatically, so they have the play-off final and are focused on that,” Afolayan explained.

I spoke to him after the game and he said he was really happy for me. If I could come to Wembley I would be there, but we have one more league fixture on Sunday. I will be watching at home and supporting the boys.”

St. Pauli will soon have the opportunity to measure their strength against formidable opponents such as Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Bayer Leverkusen.

Afolayan eagerly anticipates the upcoming challenge and is optimistic about the prospects of his team causing some surprises along the way as they strive to capitalize on their promotion.

Since I have been here, it has been amazing,” he said. “We have played at some great stadiums, we played at Schalke this year in front of 60,000.”

Playing against some of the big boys in Germany next year is going to be even more special and a great experience. I am excited for it and I think everyone in the team has the same feeling.”

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