Within the football realm, there are not too many that have a story like Offrande Zanzala’s.

Within the football realm, there are not too many that have a story like Offrande Zanzala’s.

It is a journey that has taken him from the surroundings of civil war in Congo to possibly his standout season as a Derby County player and a story of overcoming true adversity and keeping dreams alive when there seemed to be no hope.

Zanzala has witnessed the true nature of war and will be haunted by images that most will never see.

His fleeing family moved to Austria where, although they was away from war, the Zanzala family came face to face with another human scourge in racism.

It was a time in his life when he thought any potential career in football was over, but England gave him a different chance and Derby are reaping the rewards from putting their faith in him.

“Coming from Congo wasn’t obviously the best upbringing,” Zanzala said. “Three years after I was born, the country was in civil war. A lot of things happened; there was a lot of people that we lost from the family and from other families.

“At times, I had to experience things at the ages of one, two and three, which nobody would ever want to experience at that age.

“That period of my journey to where I am now is, naturally, one of the worst parts.

“Things like that play a big part in life, it’s opened my eyes and it has given me a drive to succeed in the future.

"That’s not just football, but other things. It has given me a big message. I am lucky to be here and still alive.

“You had to do what you had to do at the time. It was my brothers and my mother that really had to go through that because of how young I was at the time.

“My dad wasn’t there at the time. He was in Austria trying to get us over there, so it was hard on my mum to go through that.

“We managed to get to Austria and it was obviously a better place and a better country to go to after leaving a war zone.

“Growing up, though, Austria wasn’t the best because I didn’t get the opportunity to play football.

“I was playing in the local parks and I was so close to giving up because I had no hope. It all hit me at a young age and I moved over to England when I was eight-years-old.

“I got scouted by a guy called Andrew. He was at Mansfield and he came up to me and told me that I had potential. It was hard to take in because I didn’t believe in myself and that I could become someone.

“I still felt that my dream was dead. He worked a lot with me, and still does, not only on my football, but my personality. He has taught me a lot.

“It has been up and down right the way through to where I am today and he never gave up on me. I signed for Derby when I was 12 and it was the best moment of my life.

“They opened a door for me and I felt that this was my chance and nobody was going to spoil it for me. It’s football or nothing for me. I have still got a lot to learn and a lot of stuff to put in, but I am learning all the time. I am proud of where I am at.”

Mainly part of Darren Wassall’s Under 18s side, Zanzala is having the season of his life at the moment.

The forward scored his first ever hat trick in the 3-3 draw with Sunderland earlier this month – a moment that he dreamt being achieved during the first month of the new year.


“I have had ups and downs before with football, but this year has been a very big year for me. I have learned a lot.

"From coming in and being a scholar, to coming in everyday and experiencing different things and different people, it has been wonderful to be part of. I’m at the top of my game right about now. I am scoring goals, playing for the team and assisting.

“It was quite amazing, because I had a dream that I was going to score a hat trick this month. It’s something I had never done before and with having that dream and it coming true, was an amazing feeling. I was delighted to get three goals and help the team.”

With the good has come the disappointment for Zanzala. Although he notched his first hat trick, he picked up an ankle injury later in the game and as a consequence was ruled of the Under 18s’ FA Youth Cup Fourth Round clash against Liverpool just under a week ago.

Zanzala travelled with the squad and watched from the sidelines as his team mates fell to a 5-2 defeat to the Reds. Zanzala, though, is not one to think what might have been and instead is now concentrating on fully recovering and getting his season back on track.

“It (missing the Liverpool game) was sad, but you have to look forward and move on. The team played well.

"Liverpool are a good side, they are full of quality and it was a really entertaining game to watch from the sidelines.

"I was devastated that I couldn’t be involved and couldn’t help out the team, but I have to look forward, try and get myself fit and start to replicate the form that I have been showing this season."

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