Chituru Odunze

Odunze: Always Absorbing Knowledge

Leicester City goalkeeper Chituru Odunze does not have the typical level of life experience you would expect an 18-year-old to have. He has far more than that.
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His path into the profession truly began in England, or at least that is where his first memory of football was forged.

Born in North Carolina in 2002, he moved to south London at a young age, where he spent time at Chelsea’s academy before heading to Canada and then back to England to become a Fox.

While away with the Club’s first team at their pre-season training camp in Surrey, Odunze spoke to LCFC.com about how free-kicks in the back garden with his older brother fuelled his desire to keep goal as a professional.

“I was born in the States, but I wasn’t there long so I don’t remember much of it,” he explained. “Then, I moved to south London for a good 10 or 11 years. I had played grassroots there as well as signing for Chelsea, so I played for Chelsea from Under-9s until Under-11s or so. Then, I moved to Canada when I was about 11. I played grassroots there and ended up signing for Vancouver Whitecaps. Then I went from Whitecaps to here.

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Chituru Odunze
Chituru Odunze

Chituru was born in the United States, but has also lived in Canada and England.

“My earliest memory would probably be in the garden, with me and my brother. He’s older than me, so I didn’t really get the choice. It was: ‘Get in goal!’ and he took free-kicks at me. He’s in medical school in Atlanta right now – so is my sister, actually, but she’s in Canada with my parents.

“I feel like that’s been one of my favourite things – the moving about. I’ve been able to see so many different people and cultures, as well as different ways of playing. I was really quick to adapt to coming back and coming to Leicester, and being able to mix with a lot of the players.

“Goalkeepers here and goalkeepers in Canada and the States, they do things differently, and they might train differently – so I’ve gotten to see the best of both worlds. I’ve been able to take that and add it to my game, as well as in daily life, which is great.”

Standing at well over 6ft 7ins, it’s not difficult to understand why Chituru is known as ‘Big C’ by his team-mates – and his humble nature matches his size.

Sat in a lounge at the Club’s team hotel, he is happy to talk about many things, including his early life, and his interests outside of football.

I played a lot of basketball. Even today, when I saw the hoops up outside, I was playing a little bit. Basketball definitely, definitely helped me, because it’s a lot of footwork.

Chituru Odunze LCFC.com

“When I was younger, I was taller than most people,” he said. “I wasn’t huge, but I think maybe when I was 10 until 14, there was ridiculous growth. I hit 6ft aged 12, and then by 14, I was 6ft 4ins. There was just a bunch of growth!

“Football wasn’t as big as I thought it would be back then in Canada. When I was in England, football is everything. Everyone wants to be a footballer. But over there, the kids will play hockey, basketball or American football.

“I played a lot of basketball. Even today, when I saw the hoops up outside, I was playing a little bit. Basketball definitely, definitely helped me, because it’s a lot of footwork.

“In the NBA, you’ve got guys that are 7ft tall, and they’re so in control of their body and their limbs. That’s what I need to be.

“I’m tall for a goalkeeper, so I really need to be in control of my body and I think basketball helped. I still play it now just to keep sharp in that area.

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Chituru Odunze
Chituru Odunze

His time in Leicester sees him train with the Club's most experienced goalkeepers.

“As a goalkeeper, you need to make sure that you’re strong, powerful and you’re always able to hold yourself up. It’s a lot of your core, and your body takes a bit of a beating because you’re hitting the ground multiple times. You need to prepare yourself for it, so you need to make sure you’ve got enough food and you hydrate yourself.”

He arrived in Leicester in the summer of 2019, and now lives in Leicestershire. On a daily basis, he works with some of the most experienced players and staff in the country – and that is a truly exciting prospect for the shot-stopper.

‘”Leicester is a lot different to other clubs,” he said. “It’s got that whole family orientation, so when I went in, even when I wasn’t training with the first team, you go and you’ve got the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Jamie Vardy and Wes Morgan.

“They’re all just walking around, and they’re Premier League winners, and I’m just coming in as a young player! You’ve got all these guys saying hi and talking to you in the gym. Everything is tightly bonded, and I’m not used to that.

“So, coming here and seeing that, I thought: ‘This is a great place to be’. You can see there’s so much upwards movement that was bound to happen, and everyone at the Club knew how far we were going to come, and yet to come. It was a no-brainer for me.

I hadn’t played until after the Senegal game, so, after that game, it was kind of a shock. We needed to get something out of Japan, or we’re going home. It was a close game. It was end-to-end, it ended up 0-0, but I had to make two quite big stops at the end of the game, which all in all, kept us alive.

Chituru Odunze LCFC.com

“It’s like a family club. When I’m in there, they always, always give me the necessary tips that I need. Me and Eldin [Jakupović] just did a gym session together, and he takes me aside and asks me: ‘Have you thought about this?’.

Danny Ward is the exact same. Kasper Schmeichel is the exact same. Mike Stowell is the exact same. Even the players will come to me, and speak to me to help me. It’s all great for me.”

His skillset will not only develop in Leicester, but also while away with his national team. He has represented the United States at both Under-17s and Under-20s level, and was part of their senior squad in the last few international breaks, spending time with some of his nation’s biggest stars, including Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

Exposure to that environment will of course be beneficial, but it was at the 2019 U17 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where he gained a great deal of knowledge from adversity.

He recalled: “Heading into the World Cup, we couldn’t have been more prepared going in. The group, of course, was known as ‘The Group of Death’. It was the USA, Senegal, Netherlands and Japan. So, it was a bit of a difficult group.

“Going in, the first game against Senegal was a game we needed to win, but we lost. Then, we had Japan and Netherlands, which would be the two most difficult games that we’d need to get some points in.

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Chituru Odunze
Chituru Odunze

The stopper will aim to absorb as much knowledge as possible while away with Brendan Rodgers' side in pre-season.

“I hadn’t played until after the Senegal game, so, after that game, it was kind of a shock. We needed to get something out of Japan, or we’re going home. It was a close game. It was end-to-end, it ended up 0-0, but I had to make two quite big stops at the end of the game, which all in all, kept us alive.

“We had to play Netherlands in the last game, and they were the European champions. So, it was a big game, and we ended up losing. It was a rough game, but I still had quite a bit to do. I saved a penalty to keep the game a bit tighter.

“I definitely learned that in football, when you walk on the pitch, it’s 0-0. Anyone can win the game. It’s 90 minutes, and anything can happen so you can’t leave anything out there. I was definitely a good learning experience.

“The senior team is progressive. We’ve got a bunch of young players now under 24, or players just reaching their prime, that could go on and have great careers, so we need to take advantage of that.

“Also, 2026 being a home World Cup – we’re going to host it alongside Mexico and Canada – it’s big for us. The players are all coming in from different clubs across the world – Germany, Spain, Italy.

“When I’m there, I’m always trying to learn something. You’re there to just take it all in and get as much from it as you can. You see things and think: ‘I’d love to take that and develop it’.”

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