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Lyon - Clinton Mata: "Nobody expected me to have a career like this"

Clinton Mata
Lyon - Clinton Mata: "Nobody expected me to have a career like this"

Angola international Clinton Mata has been playing for Lyon since the summer of 2023, after more than 10 years in the Belgian league. The 31-year-old, who never expected a career like this, hopes to inspire youngsters to blossom.

Having tiptoed to Lyon, Clinton Mata has quickly established himself as a key player. With Les Gones, the Angolan international has played 18 Ligue 1 games, 17 of them as a starter. On Friday February 16, he was again in the starting line-up against Nice (win 1-0) for the 22nd day of Ligue 1, and delivered a clean sheet including five recoveries and, above all, a goal saved from Ndayishimiye (20th). A performance in keeping with those he has produced for over 10 years in the Belgian league.


Nevertheless, Clinton Mata never expected a career like this one. The player, who has played for Eupen, Genk and Brugge, didn't see himself donning boots.Instead, the 31-year-old had his sights set on...bricklaying. "A lot of little boys dream about it, but that wasn't my case. When I used to watch the Champions League with my dad, I'd say to myself: 'It would be wonderful to be able to play in it! But I didn't know that one day I'd become a professional, because it wasn't even one of my dreams. I was going to work as a bricklayer, because I really like buildings: building houses, selling apartments... So soccer came naturally over time," the 31-year-old tells the Ligue 1 website.

Inspiring the young

Yet, little by little, Clinton Mata is getting into the swing of things. He joined local club Battice FC at the age of 13. The youngster then moved from left to right before getting his chance with KAS Eupen in 2010. He made a convincing start with the U19s and then with the reserve team, and was eventually called up to the professional team. A midfielder by training, the Angolan was reluctantly repositioned to full-back in 2012. However, this new position suited him perfectly and attracted other clubs. In 2014, Charleroi recruited him. He spent three years there, then headed for Genk before joining Club Brugge (where he played from 2018 to 2023), where he established himself as one of the best defenders in the Jupiler Pro League.

Looking back, Clinton Mata feels vindicated. He also hopes that young people can draw inspiration from his career path."Nobody expected me to have a career like this. I'm a player who surprised everyone.I didn't go through a training center, I was the kid who played for small clubs and saw his mates leave for first division clubs, so today there are a lot of people who are shocked. I think it's also an example for young people who think you can't succeed without going through a training center. Admittedly, it's been a strange journey, and I've had to take a lot of twists and turns, but I think it can inspire some young people. You must never give up!

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