Meet The King’s Scholar aiming to make history

4 Mar 2022

Tudor Mendel-Idowu

World Book Day is a celebration of stories: some involving dragons and heroes, some about ordinary everyday life.

Tudor Mendel-Idowu’s story has been anything but ordinary, building on a prodigious talent that was first spotted on a TV show called ‘Child Genius’ when he was just eight years old.

Now, a Chelsea academy player who has already been capped at U15 and U17 level for England, we spoke to Tudor on World Book Day. To learn more about a gifted young man who is hoping to write his own story, on, and off the pitch.

You’re a King’s Scholar at Eton College. What does that mean?

King’s Scholars are the top fourteen brightest students in the UK, if not the world, admitted once per year at the age of 13. It’s decided after a rigorous examination process over two weeks, covering papers in a variety of subjects: Maths, Latin and Divinity to name a few.

At what age did you become aware of the fact you had a talent different to other children? When did Chelsea come into the picture?

Like every kid, I played football from a very young age. It would have been around the age of 7 or 8 that I realised I had a special talent; about the same time, I saw my academic gift coming to fruition as well. There were different top academies across the UK that approached me. Chelsea were the ones who showed the most interest and essentially being the top academy, they really wanted to get me, and did in the end.

Your family are guiding you through both academia and football. Is there anybody in the family whose footsteps you are following in?

There’s quite a bit of talent that runs through the family, but I’ll just take two specific examples. My grandfather on my mother’s side played internationally for his country, Nigeria. I actually have a photo at home of him with Pele at a game (John Adeleye-Abai is on Pele’s left), which I always found inspirational. On my father’s side, my grandfather Dr Fola Kayode Mendel-Idowu was a gifted academic. He specialised in bio-aeronautics, and as a pretty cool fact, he was Africa’s first flying doctor. So, my parents have always said I am a sort of fusion of these two extraordinary individuals.

John Adeleye-Abai and Pele

What position did your footballing grandfather play?

I’d regard myself as a number 10 or a right winger. He was a winger as well, but perhaps less in the modern sense of the word. Today it’s about playing on the wing opposite to your strongest foot. So, you’re driving and cutting in to score. My grandfather was more of a crossing, up-and-down-the-flanks style winger.

Football and academia have not historically been considered bedfellows. How do your team-mates view what you’re trying to achieve?

When you’re trying to combine two worlds, which are regarded by many as diametrically opposed, it’s very difficult. Not everybody wants to, or is willing to simultaneously pursue two such paths. I think it’s come to the point where my teammates respect my dual endeavours, but largely due to my footballing quality. As long as I keep performing on the pitch, as I do, I don’t think they care too much!

Oxbridge by week; Premier League footballer by weekend. How much of a quandary might that be?

I’m sitting my first year of specialist study, so it’s a bit early to think about that! Combining a degree with playing, the logistics would need to be organised. From my perspective though, nothing is impossible. I think I’ve already started to prove that!

What was your favourite book growing up? What are you currently reading? Which sports story would you most like to read?

When I was 7 or 8, I was fascinated by a book called War Horse which ties in with my interest in modern history. For young kids, it’s a book they should get their hands on. Michael Morpurgo is a great author. I read almost all his books when I was little. I’m currently reading a collection of essays by a writer called David Berlinski. It looks at the shortcomings of materialistic thought and how it affects society, past and present. It’s a pretty hard read, but ties into what I’m doing at school, as we have this course called ‘Perspectives’, in which we discuss a range of topics from politics, philosophy, ethics and law.

Regarding sport, I was fascinated by a young Neymar Jr. He’s the player I have tried to model my game on. Seeing how he developed from U17 and U20 level, to that period at Barcelona where he became this ultra-entertaining player with a unique style, I’d love to learn more about that.

In five years, what will Tudor be doing?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where I will be. In terms of football, in five years, I’ll be 22. I want to be competing at the highest level. I have the same expectations for myself in football as I have as an academic. I want to be at the top. Playing in, and winning Champions Leagues.

Playing at a World Cup. Maybe even a World Player of the Year Award – we’ll see! Academically, it’s a process of continually learning. I’m studying Latin, Greek and Modern History at A level at the moment. Students who study these subjects have a wide range of options. I’m looking at Classics courses which opens other pathways like Philosophy, Law, Literature and Archaeology.

Foreign policy and international relations have always interested me too. I can really go in any of these directions. Tudor Mendel-Idowu. Remember the name.

Courtesy : FIFA