The Bayern Munich defender, an important figure in the French team’s journey to the 2022 World Cup final, first told how he had problems with his pronunciation when he was 8 years old. And so, taunts flew towards Upamecano throughout his childhood. “I was really scared. When you stuttered as a child, you were afraid to speak because people would make fun of you. It’s hard to stay away from it. You always say to yourself: If I talk, people will laugh. You don’t want to go to the blackboard, or socialize, because you know people will make fun of you,” Upamecano said.
But he was fortunate to be surrounded by his family. Four sisters in the Upamecano family were always there for their brother when he was mocked. They always told Dayot to be a great success to laugh in the face of those who dared to mock them. The most important thing is that you have to dare to speak, don’t be silent or mumble. But it’s hard! Upamecano’s sisters were not in the predicament of a stutterer. In the end, however, Upamecano managed to stay away from the ridicule and develop himself to the standards set by his family.
Upamecano, who grew up in Evreux, a region in Normandy, is still going strong today. He soon received help from a speech therapist despite complications. The sessions stopped after his parents divorced and he started therapy again when he was 15 years old. There is no psychological reason behind stuttering. It was probably because he was trying to speak too quickly. And then the problem gradually faded. Playing for the local team was a relief for Upamecano. Being able to play a lot is the greatest happiness for him.
“The coach named me captain, that gives me a lot of confidence. I had to contact my teammates. I feel very good on the field. No one mocked me there. I didn’t stutter when I played,” Upamecano said.
He joined Valenciennes’ football academy in 2013 and stayed for two years before moving to RB Salzburg. The Austrian club saw Upamecano’s strength, speed, reading of the game and possession of the ball. However, the praise never entered his head.
Upamecano is starting to build his trophy collection. He improved after joining Salzburg. “I learned to stand up for myself and my cause. If it was possible to stand firm for defense then it would be better in a duel. I try to stand on my own two feet,” the midfielder shared.
That smooth approach has earned Upamecano a reputation as one of the best young defenders in the world after he joined RB Leipzig in 2017. He adapted to the Bundesliga, developing under the guidance of coach Julian Nagelsmann and is pursued by some elite clubs.
Upamecano made his France debut in 2020 and despite interest from the Premier League, he joined Bayern in 2021. He won the Bundesliga in his first season but this season has been tougher. Dortmund were already challenging for the top of the league and were in for a shock when Bayern sacked Nagelsmann last month.
Tuchel arrived and in the coach’s first game, Bayern crushed Dortmund with a score of 4-2. The old order is back. Upamecano, who is playing very well with Matthijs de Ligt at centre-back, is ready to face Pep Guardiola’s Man City. “They have a great coach and a strong squad. But we are FC Bayern. We will do whatever it takes to win.”
Despite having great respect for Haaland, Upamecano will try to stop this fearsome young star like teammate Kylian Mbappe when Bayern beat PSG in the round of 16. “I always keep my balance, ready to move in whatever direction Mbappe moves, watching his position on the pitch. He’s the best player in the world.”
“I hope Les Bleues will have other opportunities,” Upamecano said, “My goal is to improve and I always listen to my coach. I was a stuttering boy. Now, I will try to speak more on the field. If I have something to say, I will say it. And the saying I want to say is: Let’s win the Champions League with Bayern Munich.”
In order for his voice to reach the ears of the whole world, tonight Upamecano will have to tame the fierce scorer Erling Haaland of Man City, who has just had a hat-trick and a brace in the last 2 matches. Currently, Haaland is considered the most dangerous striker in the world.
In France, Upamecano is looking to the future. Raphael Varane and captain Hugo Lloris have retired from international football. Coach Deschamps gave Mbappe the captain’s armband, and Ibrahima Konate replaced Varane in defence. Obviously, Upamecano will be one of the leaders of the next generation once Varane is no longer present in the national team.