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From Borussia Dortmund to AFC Telford United: Michael Luyambula is chasing his dream in England

Three years ago Michael Luyambula found himself in the line of fire as Marco Reus and team-mates rained in with cannonball shots during training at his boyhood club Borussia Dortmund.

Goalkeeper Michael Luyambula is at AFC Telford United on loan from Birmingham City
Goalkeeper Michael Luyambula is at AFC Telford United on loan from Birmingham City

The goalkeeper, from the north of Germany, left Dortmund for England soon after as an 18-year-old with a dream.

“I have my goal to be a professional football player and the opportunity came with Birmingham City so I took it,” said the 20-year-old who is currently on loan at AFC Telford United.

“My English was bad. I could understand and I talked to the team all the time to learn it.

“My family came to visit but I’m here by myself.”

Transfer restrictions meant Luyambula could only turn out for the Blues’ under-23s team after impressing in a trial in 2018.

He did well in the youth ranks before a National League South loan to Hungerford Town – his first experience of men’s football.

Luyambula impressed and helped keep the Crusaders in the division. League Two Crawley came calling last summer and the he became their cup keeper, between the sticks for a historic run to the EFL Cup round of 16 with Norwich and Stoke defeated along the way.

He was recalled by Birmingham with a view to finding him first-team football, and has made three appearances for Gavin Cowan’s side since making the Shropshire switch.

“I think for me, because I didn’t have game time before that, it was a really, really good opportunity for me to get game time,” added the Dortmund fan.

“As soon as I knew Telford were interested I took the opportunity to get involved and train with them. I’ve found it really nice to meet the boys. I already feel like it’s not about just anybody else, it’s about the group.

“Everyone is helping each other. My first weeks were really nice.

“The dressing room is really, really funny. Even when I came the first time they were playing ping pong together and everyone is talking together.

“Everything was really nice. It’s a good dynamic in the group and a good vibe.”

On boss Cowan, he added: “I found him really well. When I played the first game he believes in me. He has helped me a lot.

“He took the pressure away from me. The way he gives us advice, everything is fine and I’m really happy.”

Luyambula continued: “The type of football is like typical English men’s football.

”At Birmingham I’ve only had the opportunity to play in the under-23s, so I needed bodies in the box, crossing, that’s what I need and where I can improve.

“I used to play for Hungerford at the same level. When I first went there it was hard for me to get to know the game.”

Thomas Tuchel was the manager in charge when a teenage Luyambula would be peppered by shots in Dortmund first-team training.

But, having moved to the west German city aged nine in 2008 and joined the club’s youth ranks a year later, Luyambula, of Congolese descent, experienced the full Jurgen Klopp revolution. The Bucks shot-stopper added: “When I was there we won the German title and to be honest the vibe in the city changed.

“Everyone is more addicted to football (now).

“Jurgen Klopp brought a lot into the club. When you go to Dortmund you can see flags everywhere, everyone is just football there.

“I trained sometimes with the first-team squad. There are really good, quality players.

“Marco Reus is a really good player, when we did shooting it was hard to save his shots!

“I was enjoying every minute and it was a big experience.

“In some games, when they won against Real Madrid, I was there as a ball boy for example.

“When you play for the youth team you can be ball boy, we won 4-1 against Madrid and one night against Malaga where Dortmund won (a Champions League quarter-final second leg where Klopp’s men scored two added time goals to progress).

“I have a lot of memories with Klopp’s team.”

Luyambula, who aims to play for the Congo national side, could have stayed at his club and continued to progress through the age groups.

But he realised he needed to take a chance to turn his dream into a reality.

“I left Dortmund because they wanted to help me in the under-23s but I won’t play because the third choice from the first team plays for the under-23s,” he added.

“There was no game time for me so I decided to leave for more game time. I went to other trials but in the end I decided for Birmingham.”

And Luyambula’s ambition has not wavered.

He continued: “I still want to go to their first team and make it.

“I want to give everything when I train with the first team, I want to impress, develop and improve.

“I’ve got a bit of time. I talk to the Birmingham City goalkeeper coach and they say the average age in the Championship is 28 and I am only 20.

“They say that ‘you have some years and that we believe in you’ and to keep working hard.”

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