A quick Google of Matthias Fanimo’s name will reveal several articles exclaiming the winger was once the fastest footballer in the world but there is a lot more to the 24-year-old’s game than sheer pace.
“I wouldn’t say it has hindered or helped but it’s always nice to be considered as the fastest,” says Fanimo when asked about his reputation. “I was young at the time and thought that was a big deal but playing week in week out and scoring goals is what I want to be known for doing.”
The winger from Lambeth, London came to national attention when in 2014, stats emerged which showed him to be faster than the likes of Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale during his time with West Ham.
He also made several appearances for England at youth level, making nine appearances for England U17s where he played alongside the likes of Raheem Sterling and Nathaniel Chalobah. Unfortunately though, injuries prevented him from competing in major tournaments.
“It was definitely a good experience playing along side those boys who I considered friends.
“I would have liked to have continued playing but injuries played a massive part in that with me missing the U-17 World Cup and other tournaments.”
Despite his potential, Fanimo would go on to make just three cup appearances for the Hammers as injuries hampered his progress and he was released in 2015. After a spell in non-league football, the former England youth international is now rebuilding his career in Slovenia’s second division with Drava Ptuj after help from an unlikely source, former British high jumper Dalton Grant.
“Over a year ago I met Dalton Grant who became my personal trainer and he got me back fit and in shape.
“We spent a lot of time working together and he let me know about an opportunity in Slovenia that had come up.”
Grant, a Commonwealth gold medalist, had previously worked with Dagernham & Redbridge as a strength and conditioning coach and it was his tip off that secured a return to professional football for Fanimo who had been playing for AFC Hornchurch in the Isthmian League.
“Yes I did [take a lot of convincing to move to Slovenia]. At first my answer was no because I was a total stranger to the country and everything about it.
“But it was professional football and it was also a chance to go abroad and be seen with a fresh set of eyes.”
The move seems to be the right decision as the former Hammer scored his first ever career hat trick in just his second match with his new side and has since scored a couple more goals as Drava push for promotion to the top tier of Slovenian football.
“I’m enjoying every minute of it,” he says. “I have definitely missed playing football full time and training everyday.
“Even though I was only training twice a week with non-league clubs I was still training other days in the week myself so the change wasn’t so big.”
The goals are certainly a welcome addition to his game as well, having managed only a few goals during his time in senior football back in England, including one for Margate last season, but the winger has always backed his ability to hit the back of the net.
“I’ve always been very attacking minded and wanted to score goals! Being injured hindered that but now that I am back fit my aim is to contribute to as many goals as possible.”
Life outside of football is also slowly becoming more enjoyable for the 24-year-old who says he is now starting to adjust to his new way of life away from home and he appears to have found himself a new hobby as well.
“I’m settling in quite well now, getting used to everything but the way of life on this side of Europe but it’s definitely a lot different to London.
“I’m currently living on my own. They have put me in an apartment which is good. They all speak English here which is also good but all team talks and group meetings are in Slovenian so I’m slowly picking up the language grasping words here and there and learning myself.
“I try to get out and keep busy otherwise I try and break up my day by training twice.
“But I’ve recently found a golf course which I will definitely be visiting frequently!”
It seems life in Slovenia is treating Fanimo well and it is certainly great to see him getting regular game time. The move abroad was a gamble but it seems to be paying off in the short time and the former Eastleigh man has some positive words on his time so far.
“I would recommend a move abroad definitely! It’s nice to come to Europe and test yourself and hopefully that can help further yourself as a footballer.”
Despite this advice, Fanimo is still hoping to prove himself in his homeland once game, whether that be now or in the future.
“My ambitions for the future are definitely to return to the Premier League,” he says. “It has always been my ambition to play in the league and I know I’m capable of doing so.”
“But for now my aim is to play frequent football and make a name for myself again and catch up on all the years that I have missed due to injury.”
We may not have seen the last of Matthias Fanimo in English football.