“The best year of my life”

VfL’s young talent David Odogu on the U17 World Cup title and an exciting 2023.

Normality is gradually returning to the life of David Odogu. The historic triumph at the U17 World Cup in Indonesia caused a whirlwind that was still being felt weeks after the German international's return. For the VfL academy defender, the World Cup title was the crowning moment of an outstanding 2023.

“Imagined it would be easier”

Surakarta and Wolfsburg are separated by 11,000 kilometres, six hours and 30 degrees Celsius. It is no surprise, therefore, that Odogu needed a while to get used to everyday life again after his marvellous World Cup journey, which culminated in a historic victory for Germany on 2 December. The 17-year-old did not have much time to do so, though, as just days after the final, he was back at his school desk at 7:55 am. “I imagined the adjustment would be easier, to be honest. The time difference really got to me,” admits Odogu.

In demand

In the last few weeks, the freshly minted U17 world champion has been rushing from one appointment to the next in between school and training. A reception here, an interview there, plus countless congratulatory messages. “If I put WhatsApp and Instagram together, there’d definitely be over 500,” says Odogu. “All the hubbub around you is really exhausting in a way, but I really appreciate the fact that people are interested in me and my story. I'm very grateful for the way the city, the club and the fans have received me in Wolfsburg.”

Priceless moments

During half-time of the Wolves’ home match against FC Bayern Munich, the centre-back was officially honoured by VfL managing directors Michael Meeske, Marcel Schäfer and Dr Tim Schumacher. “It was an overwhelming feeling,” describes Odogu. “When do you ever stand in front of 30,000 spectators at the age of 17 and get recognised for your achievements? Those are moments that money can’t buy.”

“The best year”

A look at his 2023 CV reveals that the World Cup title was just one of many accomplishments over the past 12 months. The German with Nigerian roots attended the VfL senior training camp at the start of this year, celebrated second place in the league with the Wolves’ U17 side, was included in Niko Kovac’s squad for the first time for the home match against Mainz on 30 April, and then held aloft the trophies at both the European Championship and World Cup. “It’s been the best year of my life,” declares Odogu.