Retired cult hero Akinfenwa looks back on his ‘breathtaking’ career that brought him global cultural fame

Cult hero footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa has admitted his reputation off the pitch is bigger than his achievements, as the famous striker prepares to bow out with a farewell to Wembley for Wycombe Wanderers.

Two years on from a Ligue 1 play-off triumph, the 40-year-old striker is back at the National Stadium for his final game as he aims to help his club return to the second tier against Sunderland.

It’s far from the first time he’s graced the pitch under the arch, in a long career that has seen him achieve rarefied cultural status – and the striker admits he sometimes finds his position difficult to understand.

What did Akinfenwa say about his cult status?

“My status off the pitch is bigger than what I’ve done there,” Akinfenwa said in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s mind-boggling to me. It’s humbling.

“I remember they did a Fifa poll [on the video game]on whose map they [the gamers] were most looking forward to playing with? It was me or Messi, and I beat Messi. I was like, ‘What. Wait. What am I missing?’

On claims that he can lean on any teammate, he added, “I’m trying to scour the Marvel Universe now, to see if Thanos wants to take me. I said I would finish the strongest match ever and at 40 I don’t see anyone here who can take my crown.”

What else did Akinfenwa say?

In a career that has seen plaudits from some of the biggest names in the business – Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have hailed his drive – Akinfenwa says he is happy with his self-esteem without compliment or criticism, of which he resisted a lot.

“I am shameless myself,” he added. “Being who you are is the most powerful thing we have as individuals. Some people will say, ‘He’s built like a rugby player, he’s built like a wrestler, I don’t get all the hype around from him. It’s good because we’re all entitled to our opinions, but I want people to know that the strongest thing we have is our minds.

“If we believe in it in ourselves, we can achieve it. The mind is a powerful thing. If people say something, it doesn’t make it that way. I was told I was too big to play in football…and I’ve played that game for 22 years. I don’t need anybody’s recognition. I’m going to sit down and say, ‘You know what, B, you did well.'”

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