While WhatsApp is used by most as a way to send text messages, videos, and images with friends and family, one soccer player used it to find a new job. English footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa has played for a host of teams in England, but in 2014 he was playing for League Two club AFC Wimbledon. After extending his contract a year later in 2015, he was released from his contract in 2016 after playing – and scoring a penalty – in the League Two Play-Off Final. In his interview after the game, Akinfenwa said, “I think I’m technically unemployed, so any managers hit me up on WhatsApp and get me a job.”
Given his age–he would’ve been 34 when he was released from his contract with AFC Wimbledon–it did not seem like time was on Akinfenwa’s side. Luckily for him, his Sky Sports interview did not go unnoticed. Manager Gareth Ainsworth, of fellow League Two side Wycombe Wanderers, took a gamble and reached out to Akinfenwa. The rest is, as they say, history. Since 2016, Akinfenwa has helped his new club get promoted to the League One and, this past season, the English Championship – both the player and club’s first time ever reaching the competition.
Akinfenwa’s nearly 20-year career may not be as spectacular as some more well-known names like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but his journey has been especially unique. WhatsApp was only released in 2009, and many other social media and messaging platforms have been around only since the early 2000s. Before the internet, Akinfenwa’s plea may not have been as successful as finding himself a job. Without the virality of the internet, his interview would not have gotten the coverage it received, and his move may have never materialized.
The internet has always seemed to be, for better or for worse, a part of Akinfenwa’s life and career. After notably being the strongest player in EA Sports’ FIFA since FIFA 12 and becoming somewhat of a meme in the soccer community thanks to videos from popular UK YouTuber KSI, Akinfenwa was still able to make a career for himself. Coming full circle, Akinfenwa received a video message on WhatsApp from Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who congratulated him on his achievements. Sometimes, embracing and using social media to your advantage can make all the difference, just like it did for Akinfenwa.