Kaka Dembele has lined up against Cristiano Ronaldo and been watched by 40 million football fans. Dartford FC’s academy is good, but surely their latest graduate has surpassed expectations?
This needs explaining.
Dembele, 18, stars opposite Ronaldo in the new Nike football TV advert, which was released last Friday and opens with teenagers playing a game of ‘winner stays on’ in the park. Fellow Darts player Charlie Bex also appears in the advert.
As the game unfolds, the youngsters call out the name of their favourite player; Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Neymar – and they’re transformed into their heroes.
Ronaldo scores and taunts Dembele by saying "the crowd goes wild" but Dembele responds "So? I’ve got 50,000 fans screaming my name" before the pair try to out-do each other by showing off their new Nike boots.
Dembele, who filmed the advert in Spain over the course of three months, explained how he came to land the role.
He said: "Jeff Allen (another Dartford player) works for an ad company called Sports On Screen and they came to Dartford FC to do a screening. I wasn’t going to do it because I had an exam that day but I went, did it, and a few days later I got a call saying 'you’re on the next flight to Spain'.
"We started in January and we were flying back and forth. I’m happy I got the chance to do it. The first few times, I felt a little bit under pressure but you’ve got to embrace it and have fun with it."
So how did it feel to be told he would star alongside Ronaldo?
Dembele recalled: "At first, I said ‘no, you’re joking.’ But I got on with it, learnt my lines and I got more and more excited.
"When the day finally came, he walked in with five people surrounding him. It felt so surreal. People say, ‘wow, you’ve met one of the best players in the world’ but it still hasn’t sunk in. A lot of people say he’s arrogant, but he was a really nice person to work with."
There were long days on set, up to 11 hours at a time, but it was worth it when Dembele saw the finished product – and the huge stack of messages on Twitter.
"Since Friday, it’s been a joke," Dembele said. "My phone’s constantly been going off. I’ve enjoyed it. I haven’t had that limelight before. It’s been good to see what it’s like when you make it."
But if Dembele does make it, it’s more likely to be on the pitch than in the TV studio. He insisted "football comes first", having played 45 minutes for Dartford’s first team in their Skrill Premier game at Nuneaton last Saturday. That was Dembele’s fourth substitute appearance for the senior side and he also lifted the Kent Cup with Darts’ under-18s last month.
He may not come up against Ronaldo every week, but we haven’t heard the last of this young man.