He might only be 22, but Modou Barrow has already had a lot to celebrate in a short space of time.
After arriving in south west Wales from Swedish side Ostersunds FK three months ago, Barrow became a father for the first time back in September before celebrating his 22nd birthday just three weeks later.
And after making his senior debut against Arsenal only last month, the winger in turn became the first Gambian to feature in the Barclays Premier League. Quite an achievement for someone who was born in Africa and arrived in Britain via a decade in Scandinavia."I wasn’t aware of it at the time," he said. "But I heard about it after the game from some friends of mine and on social media.
"The people of Gambia are really happy and almost all of them support Swansea now. They don’t want to miss any games!
"But I've settled in really well here. I lived in a city in Sweden that was very much like Swansea. It wasn’t too big, but it wasn’t small either. I like it here.
"I moved here with my girlfriend, and the baby (Anya) wasn't meant to arrive until November but she came early and she's just beautiful.
"With everything that has happened we couldn't be happier."
Indeed, it has been quite a journey for the man who now calls Swansea "home".After spending his early life in Gambia, Barrow, who is one of five brothers, knew from an early age that football was fast becoming his first love."My dad was a coach and I trained every single day," he said. "He had a good reputation back home, and they tell me he had a great left foot. I loved football from the moment I started playing. I have always been an offensive player and I love to dribble!
"There are some talented players in Africa but they don’t often get the opportunity to show people what they can do."Luckily I got a chance when I moved to Sweden and that was the start for me."However, despite Barrow's move to Europe at the tender age of 11 being at the forefront of his fledgling career to date, it was a journey tinged with tragedy.
"My dad met a Swedish lady so we moved there with my brothers," he explained. "I was staying with my mother back in Gambia, but she sadly passed away after an illness just after we moved."She helped me a lot, buying me shoes to play football in. She is the reason I’m doing all this now - it is all for her."My dad gives me advice on the phone every day, tells me to train well and do extra running and practice more and more to become a better player."
With the help of his father - a plumber by trade - Barrow soon found his feet in Sweden.After spells with the likes of Mjölby Södra, IFK Norrköping and Varbergs as a youngster, he moved to First Division side Ostersunds and let his football do the talking."I learned Swedish to speak with my friends and learn about the culture," he said. "I then played in an Academy for four years before playing in the Third Division and then joining Ostersunds."We played some really good football and passed the ball a lot like Swansea do. We also had great coaches there who helped me a lot."
The coaches that Barrow mentions above, Graham Potter and Billy Reid, both have firm connections to these shores.Potter featured for the likes of Southampton, Stoke and West Bromwich Albion in a 12-year playing career and has been in charge of the Swedish outfit since 2011, while his assistant, Reid, was heavily linked with the manager's job at Swansea City following the departure of Paulo Sousa in the summer of 2010.
"Billy is a great coach," said Barrow. "He told me a lot about Swansea before I came here. Billy said that he had a chance to maybe be the manager but it didn’t work out."He said me it was a good club, especially for young players. I speak to him most days and both he and Graham (Potter) are good people."
Despite firm interest from Championship side Bolton last summer, where Barrow spent time on trial, the winger impressed during a similar period in Wales and finalised his switch to the Liberty Stadium back in September."The style of football was a huge attraction for me," said the winger, who scored four goals in his first five games for the club's Under-21 side. "I watched Swansea when I was in Sweden and knew a lot about them."It’s a good club and I feel I can learn a lot here. Football is everything for me - it’s what I can do."But it wasn't long before Barrow was able to showcase his talent to a far wider audience.
Following a second-half substitute appearance against Arsenal and another cameo against reigning champions Manchester City, the winger had fans and pundits purring with his fearless performance.“To come on against Arsenal was great for me," he said. “Back in Gambia everyone talks about the Premier League so it was like a dream."But it’s just football, I’m not scared to play. When you know you are good at something then you shouldn’t be scared."I’ve played in front of big crowds in Sweden, but the Arsenal game was just amazing. The fans were chanting and that gave me a lot of confidence."But I know I can do more. I can do dangerous things."This is just the start and there is a lot more to come."
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