“It feels amazing to be back with the team at Brentford, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be” reflects Moses Odubajo, who was re-signed by The Bees this summer having come through a testing time with a lengthy knee injury now firmly behind him. But this isn’t the first time Moses has overcome major adversity. At the age of 13 he and his brothers experienced a devastating loss as their Mum unexpectedly died from malaria.
Moses remembers: “Mum was a courageous woman who loved us very much. She always encouraged me to be brave, to do my best and she really believed in me as a young player. She wrote my first football CV and even took photos of me with my trophies as she wanted to approach all the top clubs!
"Mum worked as a sexual health advisor and she travelled a lot. I was 12 when she came home from Ghana, West Africa and she wasn’t herself, she was weak and in pain and was diagnosed with malaria. It was very traumatic to see her battle with this disease which was tearing away at her body. Had we known what we know now, we would have done things differently, but Mum was sure she wanted to get treated in Africa for the malaria rather than the UK, so she travelled to Uganda to see a doctor who had been recommended. That was the last time I saw her. She never returned.
"I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, to lose a parent at such a young age. I went into shock for the first five months. Mum was a strong woman, I never thought she would be vulnerable. Mum’s death changed me for a while, it was as if a part of me had been ripped out. I even lost interest in football but eventually I decided I would not let this beat me. I realised that being negative wasn’t going to change my situation.
"I turned my grief into motivation to become a professional footballer and a better person and that’s been my focus ever since. It’s Mum’s legacy. She’d be so chuffed to see where I’m at now. All her hard work paying off.
"I visit my extended family in Nigeria where malaria still takes a terrible toll. We were dealt another blow when my aunt, Mum’s sister also caught malaria and we lost her too. Our story is tragically not uncommon for families across Nigeria where malaria kills over 800 children a day. It’s outrageous when you think about it especially as malaria is preventable and costs less than a cup of tea to treat.
"I know it’s hard for us to get our heads around these numbers, but each number is a person and every death is needless. Malaria is more than a reckless killer, it is also a major cause of poverty, especially in parts of Africa, stopping kids from going to school and parents from earning a living.
"Looking at the positives, there’s been incredible progress to beat malaria in recent years, deaths have been more than halved thanks to a big global effort, championed by the UK. This is one killer disease that we could end in my lifetime and yours and that’s why I’m a Special Ambassador for Malaria No More UK. It’s an awesome charity that led the Malaria Must Die campaign earlier this year, launched by David Beckham in the lead up to the Malaria Summit in London in April where I heard speakers including Bill Gates talk about what’s needed to make ending malaria a reality. With the right funding and support it can be done!
Please join me and show your support by donating at the game against Bristol City on Saturday, 20 October, online here or text 'BUZZ01 £5’ to 70070 to donate £5. You can also spread the word on social media because in this day and age no one should die from a mosquito bite, wherever they are.”
Top malaria facts:
- Malaria is the world’s oldest and deadliest disease thought to have claimed the lives of up to half of all people that have ever lived
- Half of the world is still at risk from malaria
- A child dies from malaria every two minutes
- Malaria is preventable and costs less than a cup of tea to treat
- Malaria is responsible for up to half of all preventable school absences in Africa
- The US and Western Europe eliminated malaria in the 1950s and 1960s respectively
- Malaria costs some families in Africa 25% of their household income
- Around 1,500 people return to the UK every year having caught malaria, leading to around five deaths
- Commonwealth Leaders united in London in April 2018 with a commitment to halve malaria cases and deaths in the Commonwealth by 2023
On Saturday, we will welcome the Malaria No More UK charity to Griffin Park in order to raise awareness and help fight this disease. Join us to support this charity. Ticket information can be seen here.