FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019: Q&A with South Africa’s Ode Fulutudilu

This footballer fled war in the Democratic Republic of Congo to become a refugee in South Africa. Now, she’s playing at the World Cup in France.

With a smile, skill, and plain hard work, Ode Fulutudilu has beaten the odds throughout her life.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she escaped war and became a refugee in South Africa.

Fulutudilu dreamed of being a footballer and managed to secure a scholarship to a college in the USA.

Now, the first female South African to play in Spain’s top league is taking part in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, after receiving a late call up to the national team squad.

The Olympic Channel Podcast visited her in Malaga ahead of the start of the biggest tournament of her life.

If I hear of them being treated bad, my heart breaks - Fulutudilu to Olympic Channel on refugees

Olympic Channel Podcast: When you were a refugee, did you play any football?

Ode Fulutudilu: Yes, as a refugee I played football. Even though I never had the paperwork to compete in the league I still carried on playing. In South Africa, whenever the league started I would not be able to start the league with everyone else because my refugee papers were not seen as legitimate papers. I would always have to wait a month, two months, three months, until I could join my team mates and play. All because I had refugee papers.

South Africa's Ode Fulutudilu sits in Estadio La Rosaleda in Malaga
South Africa's Ode Fulutudilu sits in Estadio La Rosaleda in MalagaSouth Africa's Ode Fulutudilu sits in Estadio La Rosaleda in Malaga

How proud are you to be representing South Africa at the World Cup?

It would be a great achievement to be able to say once my football is done that I’ve played in a major tournament. Not a lot of footballers are able to say that because either their countries are not able to qualify, or they’re not able to make it into their national team. I would love it to be a foundation that allows me to go into coaching because I think that more females need to go into coaching because it’s a female sport. I think more females need to take responsibility for it.

South Africa's Ode Fulutudilu: From refugee to the World Cup

South Africa's Ode Fulutudilu: From refugee to the World Cup

How does it feel when you hear about other refugees who are not given the same opportunities as you have?

No matter where I am, if I hear of them being treated bad, my heart breaks because that’s who I was. When I hear of them not being given equal opportunities, my heart breaks because that’s who I was. When I hear of countries closing their borders to them, my heart breaks because that could have been me. I could have been stuck in the DRC (or) maybe killed because a country closed their doors to me. It has made me more sympathetic. I am always for refugees and I think that always will be.

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Hope I haven't missed the #tbt

A post shared by Ode Fulutudilu (@ode101) on

For any anyone who has a dream and a passion what is your *advice? *

I would say do the extra that no one else is doing. Go beyond - not just what you’re asked to do. Also, to keep on doing it even when no results are coming. Even when no opportunities are knocking, to keep on doing it, because sooner or later, your time will come. Everyone who never gives up - their time eventually comes. If you have a passion for something, and you believe in yourself, eventually something will break, and some doors will open.

Ode Fulutudilu is on this week's Olympic Channel Podcast.

Each week we find the people to interview around the Olympics to inspire, motivate, and entertain.

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