Leytonstone teenager Max Makaka, 16, has signed for Watford FC after being granted asylum seven years ago

Teenage footballer signs academy contract after escaping from war-torn Congo

Max has signed for Watford FC

Max Makaka

First published in Waltham Forest
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A teenager who honed his football skills playing bare feet in the streets of war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo has been signed up by Watford FC.

Max Makaka, 16, of Clarendon Street, Leytonstone, who is a pupil at George Mitchell School in Leyton, was granted asylum in the UK seven years ago after fleeing his homeland with his mother.

He was spotted by a scout after being released by Spurs and has now signed an academy contract with the Championship side and will begin training next month.

Recalling his childhood, he said: "In Congo most families can't afford shoes and boots for kids so they play in their bare feet.

"They don't really have the facilities there so it is really hard to get better. There was only one pitch where I lived so all the kids would play at the same time."

The young midfielder is keen to stress the influence of his "hero" mother, who fought to get her family to safety and a better life.

He said:  "My mum is a hero of mine. She went through a big struggle to get us over here.

Max also highlights the support he received from George Mitchell and he is predicted high grades in eight GCSEs despite not speaking English on arriving in the country.

He said: "I have the school to thank for helping me with that. It was hard but the teachers really helped me.

"They always tell you at Watford you have to have a Plan B because you never know what will happen in football. That is why education is so important to me."

And he singled out PE teacher Tom Collier for particular praise.

He said: "The whole school has really helped me but Tom really supported me.

"He made me captain of the team. Whenever I had any doubt about myself he was there to pick me up.

"I don't know if I would be where I am today without all the support the school have given me."
The ambitious teenager is setting his sights high and is aiming to be as good as one of the best midfielders the world has ever seen.

He said: "I want to be as good as my hero Zinedine Zidane.

"Every player has dreams of winning trophies but first hopefully I can get into the first-team this year."

Mr Collier, 28, was full of praise for Max's attitude.

He said: "The great thing about Max is that he never forgot his studies.

"The school wouldn't let him and to be fair to him he continued to work hard even when he was achieving success in football.

"He has not let it all go to his head. He is still the humble, friendly, level-headed and hard working boy he was when he first came to the school."

Comments (13)

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8:01am Thu 22 May 14

Villagecranberry says...

Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available. Villagecranberry
  • Score: 18

1:10pm Thu 22 May 14

Hornets number 12 fan says...

Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future
[quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future Hornets number 12 fan
  • Score: -15

1:25pm Thu 22 May 14

Villagecranberry says...

Hornets number 12 fan wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future
You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice.
[quote][p][bold]Hornets number 12 fan[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future[/p][/quote]You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice. Villagecranberry
  • Score: 17

2:06pm Thu 22 May 14

SAHornet says...

Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
Well said, sir.
[quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]Well said, sir. SAHornet
  • Score: 14

2:15pm Thu 22 May 14

Hornets number 12 fan says...

Villagecranberry wrote:
Hornets number 12 fan wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future
You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice.
Where did you buy your rose tinted glasses I would like a pair!
[quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Hornets number 12 fan[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future[/p][/quote]You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice.[/p][/quote]Where did you buy your rose tinted glasses I would like a pair! Hornets number 12 fan
  • Score: 4

2:21pm Thu 22 May 14

soulfulhornet says...

A heart warming story. Let's hope he makes it.... and with us. He sounds like a great lad. When you hear of the young lads at top Prem clubs earning £10k per week plus (Chalobah on £35k for example), stories like this restore your faith in football and the human condition.

And good luck with the GCSEs, Max.

I recall Graham Taylor once saying that Watford had a great record at bringing through youth team players to full professionals. I think we had 10% against the national average of 3%. Graham emphasised the importance of an education alongside football development, so the youngsters had something to fall back on. It still applies and is why Harefield is important.

We are still bringing through youngsters as the contracts awarded this month prove. And for those that say the Pozzos don't value homegrown talent - remember Murray, Smith, Hoban and Bond were given longterm contracts before even the Udinese/ Granada loans were made permanent (Fessi excepted).
A heart warming story. Let's hope he makes it.... and with us. He sounds like a great lad. When you hear of the young lads at top Prem clubs earning £10k per week plus (Chalobah on £35k for example), stories like this restore your faith in football and the human condition. And good luck with the GCSEs, Max. I recall Graham Taylor once saying that Watford had a great record at bringing through youth team players to full professionals. I think we had 10% against the national average of 3%. Graham emphasised the importance of an education alongside football development, so the youngsters had something to fall back on. It still applies and is why Harefield is important. We are still bringing through youngsters as the contracts awarded this month prove. And for those that say the Pozzos don't value homegrown talent - remember Murray, Smith, Hoban and Bond were given longterm contracts before even the Udinese/ Granada loans were made permanent (Fessi excepted). soulfulhornet
  • Score: 10

2:42pm Thu 22 May 14

miked2006 says...

Hornets number 12 fan wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future
It just said he is excelling academically!?

Anyone who puts their head down in our country and works at academics, no matter what their dream is, should do well in life.
[quote][p][bold]Hornets number 12 fan[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future[/p][/quote]It just said he is excelling academically!? Anyone who puts their head down in our country and works at academics, no matter what their dream is, should do well in life. miked2006
  • Score: 10

3:11pm Thu 22 May 14

Villagecranberry says...

Hornets number 12 fan wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
Hornets number 12 fan wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future
You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice.
Where did you buy your rose tinted glasses I would like a pair!
Cranberry are better, everything appears cranberry. You can wall along Orford Road and it seems like you are in the Angel or Borough Market.
[quote][p][bold]Hornets number 12 fan[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Hornets number 12 fan[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future[/p][/quote]You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice.[/p][/quote]Where did you buy your rose tinted glasses I would like a pair![/p][/quote]Cranberry are better, everything appears cranberry. You can wall along Orford Road and it seems like you are in the Angel or Borough Market. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -1

3:14pm Thu 22 May 14

Villagecranberry says...

Hornets number 12 fan wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
Hornets number 12 fan wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future
You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice.
Where did you buy your rose tinted glasses I would like a pair!
Elton John has an affiliation to Watford and hopefully he will take him under his wing and help him financially as he was generous and was interesting in adopting a baby from Russia but then him and his partner got one from somewhere else.
[quote][p][bold]Hornets number 12 fan[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Hornets number 12 fan[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]There's a fine line for a lot of these lads between crime and he got lucky because he has talent, those who have not don't have much of a future[/p][/quote]You can make your own luck in life, crime is a life choice.[/p][/quote]Where did you buy your rose tinted glasses I would like a pair![/p][/quote]Elton John has an affiliation to Watford and hopefully he will take him under his wing and help him financially as he was generous and was interesting in adopting a baby from Russia but then him and his partner got one from somewhere else. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -7

6:27am Fri 23 May 14

tjm01 says...

Villagecranberry wrote:
Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.
You really are the most two face little person ever, just last week you were complaining about the amount of foreign players in football claiming it stops home grown talent coming through, and now this

Good luck Max I have a friend whos son was at Watford who unfortunitly due to injury was realeased, its a difficult profession to succeed in and I wish you every success
[quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: Well done to the lad, his educational and sporting achievements should be an example to some of his peers who, having been given the hospitality of the UK, choose a life of crime instead of grasping the opportunities available.[/p][/quote]You really are the most two face little person ever, just last week you were complaining about the amount of foreign players in football claiming it stops home grown talent coming through, and now this Good luck Max I have a friend whos son was at Watford who unfortunitly due to injury was realeased, its a difficult profession to succeed in and I wish you every success tjm01
  • Score: 5

7:23am Fri 23 May 14

garston tony says...

Good luck to the lad, he certainly is one that has worked hard and is reaping the rewards through good grades and possibly a career in football.

I wonder how many gifted kids get released by clubs purely because they didnt put in the effort to make the most of what they had? We have it too easy in this country, it seems a lot of people think they are owed a living and dont have to make any effort to earn it and then blame everyone and anyone but themselves when they fail.

In my experience i'd rather take on a less talented/qualified person to do a job but who is a grafter than someone who has the talent but doesnt apply it.

And I totally agree with Villagecranberry, turning to crime is a choice. No matter the surroundings of your up bringing you can always better yourself and its lazyness that leads people to turn to the dark side
Good luck to the lad, he certainly is one that has worked hard and is reaping the rewards through good grades and possibly a career in football. I wonder how many gifted kids get released by clubs purely because they didnt put in the effort to make the most of what they had? We have it too easy in this country, it seems a lot of people think they are owed a living and dont have to make any effort to earn it and then blame everyone and anyone but themselves when they fail. In my experience i'd rather take on a less talented/qualified person to do a job but who is a grafter than someone who has the talent but doesnt apply it. And I totally agree with Villagecranberry, turning to crime is a choice. No matter the surroundings of your up bringing you can always better yourself and its lazyness that leads people to turn to the dark side garston tony
  • Score: 1

7:24am Fri 23 May 14

garston tony says...

Whatever happened to Al Bangura?
Whatever happened to Al Bangura? garston tony
  • Score: 1

3:20pm Fri 23 May 14

jackblack007 says...

garston tony wrote:
Whatever happened to Al Bangura?
Plays for Forest Green Rovers
[quote][p][bold]garston tony[/bold] wrote: Whatever happened to Al Bangura?[/p][/quote]Plays for Forest Green Rovers jackblack007
  • Score: 1

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