Tolu Arokodare regaining form, confidence in France after failed spell in Bundesliga

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Nigerian striker Tolu Arokodare says he is rediscovering his confidence and enjoying his football again after a frustratingly torrid time with FC Cologne in the German Bundesliga.

Last weekend the forward scored his third league goal for struggling French Ligue 2 side SC Amiens. That is a far cry from last season, when he finished the campaign without a goal to his name in the Bundesliga. Or even a place in Cologne's starting side.

Just under 12 months ago, Arokodare was on the up and up. Fresh off scoring 22 goals in 32 Latvian league games with Valmiera FC, he snagged a loan move to Cologne and looked for all the world like he was on a trajectory to the top. He told ESPN at the time that he could 'see myself in the Champions League finals, playing in the World Cup or something'.

But the German club passed on the option to make the move permanent after just 10 league games -- mostly with limited minutes -- and no goals. He featured briefly in the DFB Pokal -- scoring a penalty in a shootout victory against SSV Jahn Regensburg -- and a UEFA Europa League qualifier. And in the transfer window, the forward found himself heading to Amiens on another loan move.

For a player flush with so much promise not so long ago, it looked for all the world not only like a huge disappointment but a proper career regression.

Arokodare was in Cologne's Bundesliga squad for just 17 of 34 games, playing 10 times without a single start. He tallied 104 minutes of league action all season -- just over a full game - and the 20 year-old says the experience damaged his confidence.

"It was really tough and difficult, because it really pushed my confidence down to be honest," Arokodare told ESPN. "It was so bad that I remember a lot of times, I will take some of my teammates to the corner and ask, 'Do you think I'm a bad player?'"

Assured that he was not, the Nigerian would seek to find out exactly what he was doing wrong, what he could improve, and what he needed to do to impress the coach to get more minutes.

Nothing worked.

He added: "I wanted to know how I could improve because I know what I was giving in training, but I wasn't getting time to play. It was like my efforts were not seen, like some eyes were closed to the good things I was doing and they could only see the bad things that I did."

That open questioning of teammates represents a self-assessment that Arokodare still explores, about himself and his game. It is why he feels he could have done better in the limited minutes that he did have in Germany.

"I wouldn't say I was bad," he said. "I wouldn't say I was good either because if I was good, obviously, I will get more playing time. And if I was bad, I won't have gotten the little playing time I got. So I will say I was somewhere in between.

"I didn't score for a whole season. But also, I didn't get more than 20 minutes to play in a single game. I mean, some players come into the game, and in five minutes they score. But it wasn't just for me. It didn't work for me. I do not know.

"It could be the team, it could be me, I do not know. It just wasn't working for me, and most of the time I came into the game we were either losing or we were trying to defend the lead. It was always in the last minutes."

Arokodare embraces the tribulations as an important part of his journey towards becoming a better player, saying he is taking the lessons from his experience.

"Moving to the Bundesliga was a big step," he said. "Obviously, not an easy one. It was a huge jump. Some would say was a bad move, but it was a step I needed in my career to get the experience I need for the other levels I'm going to get to.

"I learned discipline in Germany. I became more physical and I became mentally strong and physically strong. So these are the things I can use in my next level wherever I go to play football, starting from here.

"All the things I learned in Cologne. I will say, I'm going to put it to good use here or wherever else I go after now."

The move to France offers the striker a chance to hit the reset button on his career, even though it represents a drop in level from the Bundesliga.

Arokodare says he got what his abysmal season in Germany deserved: "Nobody wants to go down a division. I wouldn't say it was the worst move or the best move, but it was the right move to make after the kind of season I had in Bundesliga.

"I need to build my confidence back up, I need to get more playing time. Nobody wants to get a striker who plays 10 games and no goals. So I had to go, even if it's the [French] second division. Come here to fight with the team and go to the first division."

That latter ambition is not going so well, with Amiens stuck at the wrong end of the table and in danger of relegation even from Ligue 2. Still, Arokodare has already more than tripled his playing time from last season -- tallying 338 minutes in just the same number of league games -- with three goals to his credit.

Thrown in the two goals he scored during preseason, and that is five already; not earthshaking numbers, but perhaps proof that he is still a much better player than his time at Cologne made him out to be.

"It was difficult for me coming here, trying to get back to my goal-scoring ways," he added. "I would say my confidence is coming back up bit by bit.

"Obviously I do have a point to prove. I'm not trying to say Cologne is a bad team or the coach was a bad coach, or whatever. I just want to prove to myself that I'm a good football player and I want to show to the world, I would say, that Cologne made a mistake.

"If I wasn't a good player, they wouldn't have signed me in the first place. So I want to show them that they made a mistake by letting me go."