Ajax defender Calvin Bassey has revealed he is awed by his journey from his limited beginnings to the peak of European football.
Born in Aosta, Italy, Bassey moved to England with his parents at a tender age and took to playing football on the streets of London.
Leicester City picked up the youngster, from where he joined Glasgow Rangers in 2020.
At the end of an excellent 2021-22 campaign, Bassey sealed a record move to Ajax Amsterdam, where he is guaranteed an appearance in the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League.
Ajax will play their first group game match on Wednesday, with Bassey likely to make his debut in the competition the same night.
The Super Eagles defender still cannot believe how far he has come from a poor boy to a Champions League debutant with the most successful club in the Netherlands.
“When I was growing up in London, we had food and clothes, but we were poor,” Bassey told the Telegraph.
“The journey from there to here is incredible. When I get on the field on Wednesday, the Champions League anthem will sound very unrealistic.
“I always had hopes of coming here. And now I get the chance to really show myself on this stage. Wow!”
UCL group game 1: Ajax vs. Rangers
Incidentally, Ajax’s first group match is against Glasgow Rangers, the club that brought Bassey to the limelight.
While Ajax qualified as Eredivisie champions, Rangers had to navigate through a tricky qualifying round after Bassey left.
The Nigeria international cannot hide his delight at seeing Rangers make it to the UCL and meeting up with his former teammates.
But Bassey is clear that he would be putting his energy into an Ajax victory when the referee blows the kickoff whistle inside the Johan Cruijff Arena.
Bassey added: “Let me start by saying that I am intensely happy that Rangers also made it to the Champions League, and I like seeing all my friends again in Amsterdam on Wednesday, but it is also difficult.
“Rangers know my strengths and weaknesses and I know them from Rangers. It becomes a mind game.
“When I’m on the field, they are not my friends for ninety minutes, and I do everything to win with Ajax. Within the lines it is – as we call it in English – dog for dog, an every-man-for-himself fight.”
In two years with Rangers, Bassey made 65 appearances in all competitions, 17 of which came in the Europa League.