Brandon Diau talks exclusively to First Time Finish about his incredible journey to make it in the game.
Brandon was watching a game on his television set. His eyes fixed on the screen.
The floodlights illuminated the emerald green turf juxtaposed by the bright yellow strip of Brazil and the navy blue of France.
Brandon watched as the glistening Nike mercurial boots of Ronaldo clashed with the Adidas predators of Zidane. He watched as two men immersed in their craft played with the ball as if it was their toy.
It was mesmerising. Unfathomable. Gripping.
Brandon watched on. He watched in awe of Desailly and Thuram, the way the two men controlled the defence, sprayed passes forward and ran around the pitch in pursuit of the ball.
In that moment he knew.
He knew what he wanted to do. He turned to his father and said:
‘Dad, I want to play football.’
And thus a dream was born. The kind of dream that stays with you forever. The one you don’t want to let go. No matter what others tell you. No matter the circumstances.
It’s the kind which remains ingrained in your mind. Perpetually there. Perpetually spurring you on.
A bright start
‘Since that moment I fell in love with the game, and I have played it every single day,’ Brandon Diau tells First Time Finish.
‘The dream started with just enjoying the game, then you get to nine and ten and watching the games, that’s when it really came to life. I wanted to be on the pitch and to play in front of thousands of fans.’
The next stage in a young footballer’s life like Brandon was obvious. His talent was eminent from an early age. And it wasn’t long after impressing for his home-town club in Germany, that he quickly found his way to an academy. Not just any academy. Bayer Leverkusen to be precise.
‘One day my dad just said: “Brandon you’re going to play somewhere else today.” When you’re so young you don’t realise the stature of the club, you just want to play football. So after about two or three training sessions I got in.’
Brandon spent around five years in Leverkusen’s esteemed academy.
He was ultimately let go, but he got picked up by Hamburg soon after impressing for local club Troisdorf.
As a late teenager he found himself in a professional environment again, but the circumstances would be against him.
‘I struggled a lot with injuries during my time there. Then the manager got sacked and I was still injured so everything went downhill from there.’
At 20, he was released from Hamburg and it left Brandon at a crossroads. He wanted to concentrate on his education, football was maybe not at the centre of his focus. It did not help that he also had another talent.
‘I always wanted to become a professional football player, but I loved to sing and make music. So I had an option to become a singer too. After being released I drifted into music. I ended up on a singing competition on the ‘X Factor of Germany.’
Brandon excelled in music just as well he had done in football.
‘I got really far in the competition, and I got to a point where I had to consider whether I wanted to be a professional football player or a singer.’
It was a tough decision.
‘But I realised I wanted to play football.’
Despite his successes in music made a bold decision. He packed his bags and flew to Israel to sign for Hapoel Afula and his former coach who had brought him to Hamburg.
‘Two or three months after I arrived a war broke out between Israelis and Palestinians. And it wasn’t safe for me to be there anymore.’
Brandon had to flee back home, but he did not let the set-back hold him back.
The English dream
‘I went back to Germany, and then I started to think about moving to England (the home of football) to pursue my dream there.’
Brandon didn’t really have a plan like all great pioneers he merely just wanted to explore whatever the new land of opportunity held. He took everything on a whim and flew out to England after just two weeks of the idea materialising in his mind.
‘I had no idea where I would play, but I was confident that I would find a club because of my experience.’
‘The first day I just travelled around from club to club, like Fulham and Millwall. I went to their stadium and their reception and handed them my CV.’
The environment was tougher than Brandon had anticipated.
‘In England people didn’t care that I played for Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg, I spent three months without a club.’
The perpetual rejections had gotten Brandon to a stage where he was considering going back to Germany. Until a fortuitous encounter in Nike town helped change his mind.
‘I went to Nike town, there was a guy serving me who asked me if I played football? I told him yes. I told him about my story and how I want to find a club. And he told me you know what I know a person. And that’s how I got to my first club Billericay.’
English football’s physicality and intensity is renowned across the world. Even in the lower-leagues and even with Brandon’s background it took time for him to accustom.
‘I really had to get used to English football, being so direct and physical. I received so many long-balls and I definitely had to get used to it.’
‘It took me a while to adapt. At first I was on the ground a lot. Defenders knew they can’t beat me in the air so I always got little kicks and elbows. It was a long time trying to adapt to that game.’
However, the experience would prove to be vital to help Brandon grow as a player.
An unrelenting dream
He would not make a name for himself at Billericay, but Brandon never gave up.
‘Of course everyone considers giving up, sometimes even I question myself, maybe I should go to university or get a normal job, but as soon as I think that a few minutes later I have this thought that: No, I just have to be a footballer. I just have to be. Over the years it helped me build a thick skin.’
Brandon has been to many trials around the world, but this thick skin has helped him adapt.
‘Growing up, we had nothing, after school I just went straight to my friends to play football all day long. Football was an escape from reality. I always had this dream. And I always told my mum that one day I would become a professional footballer.’
Brandon was willing to sacrifice a lot for his dream. He worked various jobs as a waiter at events and even as a cleaner.
‘At one point I got a job as a cleaner, and I was cleaning a rich person’s toilet and I just sat there and I started to think, Brandon is this really what you came to England for? That was the moment when there was a switch in my head and I said to myself: Listen from now on I will give it my all.’
In 2017 he started his own Youtube channel which blew up. He now has over 20k subscribers on the platform and it has helped open up opportunities for himself in the world of football. He met his agent through his channel.
That agent would ultimately help him secure his first professional contract at Kidderminster in 2019.
‘After signing a huge weight fell off my shoulders. I was crying and I called my mom and it was one of the best feelings ever.’
At Kidderminster, Brandon had the opportunity to train everyday in a professional environment for the first time in England. The three years of hustle finally paid off.
He was teammates with players like Liverpool’s Rhys Williams at the non-League club who helped to inspire him.
‘I played with him for a year, seeing him now a year later playing in the Champions League is a reminder for me. He helped me a lot to believe that everything is possible.’
Brandon gained enough exposure at Kidderminster to earn himself a move to Romania. Yet another professional contract and yet another chance to prove himself at a higher level beckons for him at Pandurii Targu Jiu. He now dreams of playing in the Champions League and getting to the highest stage as possible.
‘I’m really looking forward to the games. I just want to play,’ Brandon concludes.
With an assist and a starting spot in his club’s last three games, Brandon is doing exactly just that.
His insatiable mindset has proved nothing is impossible. Brandon’s story is one that is an inspiring tale to those who are considering giving up in professional football. It is proof that your fortunes in the game can change in an instant. The recent rise of players like Jamie Vardy, Eberechi Eze and Rickie Lambert has shown you can make your journey into the game through unprecedented paths.
At 27, Brandon Diau is now living the dream. His sacrifices have carved him into a fearless individual and his strength and mental fortitude will take him far in the game.
Check out Brandon’s channel here: