With the sort of physique that wouldn’t look out of place on an American football field or in a wrestling ring, Adebayo Akinfenwa has always stood out as a little different from his fellow footballers.
The Islington-born forward, who currently plies his trade with Wycombe Wanderers in League One, has never quite hit the heights of playing in the Premier League and competing for major honours, but has still drawn a lot of attention over the years due to his imposing, impressive physique.
In fact, it was Akinfenwa’s muscles that helped him make a name for himself in quite an unexpected way; in the popular FIFA series of video games, the 36-year-old has repeatedly been classed as the strongest player on the planet, helping him gain cult hero status all over the world.
Akinfenwa’s career has been a quintessential journeyman story, with the big man playing for a dozen different clubs so far, bouncing around England and Wales, as well as having a stint in Lithuania with FK Atlantas, where he made his professional debut.
Akinfenwa was only a teen and had spent a brief spell at Watford’s academy when his agent, who was married to a Lithuanian woman, advised him to head over to the small Baltic nation to launch his football career. Sadly, during his two-year spell with FK Atlantas, Akinfenwa was repeatedly subjected to racial abuse and quickly sought a move back home.
He landed at Welsh Premier League side Barry Town, winning a couple of titles and even appearing in a pair of Champions League qualifiers, but the season that followed (2003-04) would prove to be a highly tumultuous one for the Hulk-like striker.
He started the year at Barry Town but was forced to leave due to financial issues. In October, he joined Boston United but couldn’t settle, moving to Leyton Orient a few weeks later. A month after that, he switched to Rushden & Diamonds and then two months later he was on the move again, signing with Doncaster Rovers, his fifth club of the season!
More moves followed as he won the Football League Trophy alongside Lee Trundle in attack at Swansea and made a name for himself among the lower leagues before finally finding a place to settle at Northampton Town. He did very well with Northampton, spending a total of five seasons with the club, interrupted only by the 2010-11 season, which he spent at Gillingham.
Stints at AFC Wimbledon and now Wycombe Wanderers have followed, with Akinfenwa scoring over 200 goals in more than 650 games across all competitions so far, including one very memorable strike for Wimbledon in an FA Cup match against Liverpool, the club that Akinfenwa has supported since he was a young boy.
It was during his time with Northampton, Gillingham, and Wimbledon that the ‘Beast’ really began to develop into a cult hero. In FIFA 10, he caught the eye with a strength rating of 91, making him a must-have for lower league teams.
His immense in-game strength essentially made it almost impossible to bully him off the ball, and the statistic increased in later editions of the game, reaching 98 in FIFA 16 and even hitting the top score of 99 as part of special in-game events.
Various YouTube stars helped to put the spotlight on Akinfenwa, who was invited to the FIFA 15 launch party and really appreciated the attention, even launching his own ‘Beast Mode’ clothing line to celebrate his immense muscularity and strongman image.
Akinfenwa is a rare example of a lower league player getting a lot of attention from all around the world, and he’s also been highly prolific, especially at Wycombe where his 17 league goals in 2017-18 helped the club achieve promotion.
He’s still one of the strongest players in the game and continues to be a real nightmare for legions of opposition defenders, with his astonishing physique proving a major advantage in the rough and tumble matches of League One and Two.