Axel Tuanzebe, the star outperforming his teammates in Manchester United football club wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so if his parents hadn’t made the decision to leave their home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I was born in Bunia which is located in the DRC. We lived with our grandmother in a somewhat big house. We had a big red gate and behind that it was just the dusty road. My grandmother was very strict and my dad was always working.”
In this somewhat big house lived Axel, his grandmother, grandfather, his mother and siblings.
“We just got on with life and enjoyed what we had.”
A lot of his family members living in manageable conditions thought not entirely ideal. So Axel’s parents made the decision to leave congo to give me and my brother a better life and an opportunity in life in England.
“None of us spoke a word of english. My own language is Lingala, a Bantu language, which makes me respect their courage. They put us ahead of all their family and looked to new beginnings which is something brave.”
In England they lived in a small community in Rochdale, a city in Greater Manchester.
“There were flats around and a five-a-side pitch in the heart of the community. Every single day we were there playing, there were language barriers but football was the international language and that’s how we communicated with each other and that’s just how we learned to battle.”
“When I got scouted for Man. United, I just remember playing for my local team, there was a man watching. He literally just came over and said ‘do you want to play for Manchester United?’
“To be honest I didn’t know what he was on about. I do remember my coach speaking to my dad about it and we just went for it,” Axel added.
At one of his early games, against Crystal Palace, Axel recalls a moment where he had a bout of nerves in the tunnel standing next to Michael Carrick. He had butterflies.
“We were playing Crystal Palace away, and Michael Carrick, I was just running out alongside him and I was like ‘Yo, Mike I’m nervous’ and he was like ‘calm down, just enjoy the moment, get a few touches of the ball and you’ll be fine’.
You could almost say it was a stranger looking out for you…yes he’s my teammate but I didn’t know him on a personal level. And he just wanted the best for me at the time and he just gave me the best advice, he did,” Axel exclaimed.
“Till this day, if I’m a little bit nervous, I stay calm, take a few touches of the ball and I’m fine.”
Axel Tuanzebe says if football never worked out, it was ok because he also learnt football was not for everyone and he’d made sure he had something to fall back on: education.
With a strict father as a guardian angel and number one supporter, Axel stayed grounded in his academics.
“I realise from pretty young that football isn’t for everybody; you never know if you’re gonna make it all year round to the first team and beyond. So I always kept on top of my academics. My dad was very strict. He wouldn’t accept poor results. He’d say, ‘if you have a poor result don’t come home’.”
“The grades that I ended up with four distinction stars, two A’s, four B’s and a C. Coming from not much education back home, there are so many uneducated children that don’t have the luxury we do here, so take it and take it with both hands.”
Axel can be at peace with himself knowing that he’s put in the work on all fronts and he recognises his parents’ efforts too.
“My parents sacrificed a lot to see their children reap the good of this world, us as children are forever in debt to them for their decision. I know they are proud of me just by the way they speak to me about certain things. It just shows what life’s about; the journey you go on with your loved ones, it means more than any kind of money or materialistic things when you just have pure joy.”
What does the future hold for Axel Tuanzebe? He says after a decorated career, paradise.
“I’d like to think I’d have a very decorated career at Manchester United and also personally, an achievement is to get married and have children.
I also have a little kind of vision that I want at the end of my career, to be sitting on the beachside with my dad and my brother, the children running and playing in the background. We will be looking back at our lives and all the things that we’ve done.”
“It’s my little end goal at the end of my career.”