From Barcelona… to BIGGLESWADE! How Braima, the older brother of Ansu Fati, ended up in Bedford playing in the NINTH tier of English football – and he’s even playing for FREE! (Unlike his brother’s £70,000 a week wage)
- Braima Fati made the decision to move to England in a bid to learn the language
- He is playing in the ninth division for Biggleswade United and is playing for free
- Younger brother Ansu Fati is thriving as Barcelona’s No 10, after Lionel Messi
- Braima finds it tough away from family but is now beginning to find his feet
There’s just something about the Fati family and No 10 shirts.
Ansu, who signed a six-year deal at Barcelona with a £1billion release clause back in October, was handed the vacated 10 shirt of the great Lionel Messi, viewed as one of the most prestigious shirts in the game.
Meanwhile, down in the ninth tier of non-league football his older brother Braima, who rescinded his Barcelona contract to move his life to England in the summer, has been handed the 10 shirt at Biggleswade United.
It’s quite the story – and one Braima is keen to explain the origins of.
Braima Fati, the brother of Barcelona star Ansu, has signed for a ninth-tier non-league team
Braima (left) has a close relationship with Ansu (right) and both came through Barca’s ranks
Braima, 23, has chosen to leave his girlfriend Miriam and their daughter Milena in Spain to spend a year learning English on the ground, among team-mates, throwing himself into the country and its culture.
He has started a 12-month lease on an apartment in Hitchin and is commuting to Cambridge Monday to Friday for classes. That, he says, will be easier when he gets a car but for now he’s enjoying the intricacies of navigating England’s trainlines.
‘It’s a decision that has not been taken from one day to next,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘It has been very difficult on a personal and professional level, because, of course, I have, as you say, my daughter in Spain, my partner and everything.
‘But of course, I prefer to sacrifice today so tomorrow I will be able to help my daughter and my partner. I think I’m a young guy and I think I can take that opportunity now and make it worthwhile that tomorrow it will be worth it and I’ll go back to being with my daughter, to being with my family, be with the people that are always there for me.
‘When I took that decision, I told my family, my partner, I told people around me, friends and everything. Most of them, almost everyone, told me that they would pay to be able to live that experience, to go out and learn the language, which is my main objective, which is the reason I am here.’
Braima’s footballing journey began at Sevilla after the family uprooted from Guinea-Bissau to chase their son’s footballing dream. He paved the way for his younger brother to enjoy the rich successes he has today.
Much like his younger brother at the Nou Camp, Braima Fati has chosen to wear the No 10 shirt
While he has ‘many memories’ from his time in the south it was his switch to Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy in 2011, a year before Ansu made the same move, that changed his life.
‘I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had and any kid from La Masia or who’s been to La Masia that you ask, no matter how many years they have been there, will say the same,’ he explained.
‘It’s an experience that takes you through life because you go through everything, missing your family and so on. Then you don’t miss them, you don’t want to leave and you want to stay.
‘A lot of things go through your head, you are in La Masía, but mostly you are at Barca, the best club in the world. And I think all the kids who have been there at Masia have enjoyed it and it’s an unforgettable experience.’
But while Ansu rose through the ranks, demolishing records on his way, Braima knew that he had to role the dice to give himself a better future away from football.
In the summer he decided to rescind his contract and walk away from Barcelona.
The brothers moved from Guinea-Bissau with the family to Seville when Braima was offered an academy contract. Barcelona scouted them extensively and they went to join La Masia later
He had heard about Biggleswade United through the family lawyer, who was well connected to the team’s chairman, prominent Spanish journalist Guillem Balague.
The club is run by volunteers and is known for its inclusivity, promoting female football, youth football as well as diversity and inclusion. There would be no money available to pay Braima but he was unfazed – he was desperate to join and would stay as long as his savings account allowed.
‘With Guillem’s help, I’m in a team, in his team, playing and the truth is I couldn’t be better. My family has always supported me in a decision that is mine,’ Fati said.
‘It’s a stage in my life that at 23 years old, well, I’ve been through a lot of teams, I’ve been in a lot of different clubs and I wanted to take that opportunity to get out there and test myself and see how far I can go.
‘And the truth is, when I spoke with my lawyers, with my parents, and especially with Guillem – we also had a meeting – I said, “well, that’s it”.
Ansu Fati was given the No 10 shirt by Barcelona as the successor to Lionel Messi this season
‘I think it’s a good opportunity to relaunch my career. Apart from football, for what I want to do in the future, if I am not doing well in football. That’s the challenge that brings me here.’
Balague explains that a chance meeting before El Clasico this season saw Ansu ‘promise’ that he will come and visit the ninth-tier side to watch Braima play.
When that will be remains anyone’s guess but the brothers have had plenty to discuss about British culture, not least the food – a matchday pie at a Manchester City match had Braima disappointed – and the Netflix options.
‘I don’t recommend the food at all!’ Braima says with a smile. ‘Cooking is one of those things you learn when you live alone, you challenge yourself to do things that you haven’t done before, and cooking is one of them for me now.
‘The truth is that this experience started off very difficult, it’s not what I expected, but in the end we learn from everything. You know this is something I decided to do myself, something that occurred to me and that I really wanted to do and I am doing it.’
As for British television, Braima is already hooked.
Braima Fati is ‘immensely proud’ of his younger brother but he is keen to forge his own story in England at ninth-tier club Biggleswade United, where he is playing for nothing
‘I put everything on in English because I want to integrate well and the more I can hear things in English, the better,’ he added.
‘I recently saw Top Boy. I watched it in English, I recommended it to my brother, to many people, to my friends. It’s cool. English is the basis of everything. Once you learn it, and I’m giving my point of view, I think that for my future I am going to need to speak English, even if it’s not super.’
Biggleswade are sitting 20th in the United Counties League Premier Division South but Braima is in no rush to get back to his life in Spain.
Fati, who has one goal to his name so far, scoring back in November, is braving the wind and rain, the harsh chill of English winter and is refusing to rule out staying in England for good.
‘I don’t have a return date and I don’t have any plans to come back right now,’ he said.
‘I’m here learning English, playing and I will see… when I’m ready and I want to go back maybe the English will convince me and I’ll stay here. I don’t know. Well, we’ll see. We’ll see!’
Braima Fati was talking from the Keech Hospice Ground, home of Biggleswade United. The club’s mission is to provide an inclusive environment and offer a pathway to English and European football to local boys and others. To follow the club and Braima go to @biggleswadeutd on Twitter.
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