By George Overhill

24th Apr, 2022 | 12:35pm

Vladimir Coufal shares anger at the destroyed dream fuelling him to West Ham success

Vladimir Coufal has opened up on the rejection that left him playing “for sausages and beer”, and the determination that fuelled his rise to West Ham star.

The Hammers right-back was released in the Czech amateur leagues as a youngster by Banik Ostrava, causing a grudge that led him to later refuse a return to the club, but spurred him on to become a Premier League player in east London.

With the club now just three games from lifting the Europa League trophy the 29-year-old says it feels “nice” to be in his current situation, having been overshadowed in his own family by an Olympic gymnast mother and figure-skating siblings.

The Czech Republic international told The Telegraph: ““Banik destroyed my dream to be a professional footballer and sent me to play for this team with 40-year-old men. These guys played for sausages and beer after the game, just to drink after work.

“I was really determined when I was released. Immediately, maybe a week after, I started to work really hard in the gym and started to go running a lot after school. I wanted to prove to them I would be able to play professional football.

“But it’s still inside of me, the feeling. When they offered to bring me back, I wouldn’t go. Inside I had feelings. They didn’t give me a proper chance just because I wasn’t tall enough for them, strong enough. But I was only 15 years old. You need to grow up slowly. But they didn’t give me a chance. So now when I’m here, it feels… nice.”

Late bloomer

Sport is littered with stories about stars who had been written off in their formative years for being too small, with arguably football’s greatest ever Lionel Messi a prime example (Mirror).

It has always seemed like a redundant argument anyway since, perhaps outside of being a goalkeeper, the game is as much down to skill as it is size.

Even star centre-backs don’t have to be huge, with the likes of Barcelona legend Carles Puyol and Ballon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro both around five foot nine inches tall.

Since arriving alongside his international teammate Tomas Soucek two years ago the pair have become integral to the growth of the team under David Moyes.

Coufal has made over 60 first team appearances for the Irons, and at a reported £5million (Guardian) has more than justified his fee already.

If he can help the team to European glory he would have proven those who wrote him off as a youngster wrong a thousand times over.

In other West Ham news, David Moyes wants to sign a £20million defender he knows well, on one condition.

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