Wolves sacrifices are paying off at last for Romain Saiss
Romain Saiss says the sacrifices made in his youth are keeping his feet on the ground as he helps Wolves’ Premier League and Europa League quests.
Saiss was rejected by multiple academies but did not give up on his professional dream.
A young Saiss juggled work in his parents’ restaurant with business studies and non-league football in the Drome area of France.
The 29-year-old’s journey to Molineux started out at current eighth-tier French side Valence before he eventually signed his first professional contract at Clermont, aged 21.
Spells at Le Havre and Angers followed before a £3million transfer to Wolves in 2016.
Saiss has since helped Wolves gain promotion to the Premier League.
Now, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men also embark on a Europa League quest, Saiss says his decision not to give up on his dreams paid off.
He said: “I think I’m lucky because it is not every day you have a player who’s come from non-league to professional league.
“It’s taken a lot of sacrifice because sometimes when the football started in August, it was time for students to make some money.
“But for me every time I made the choice to stay focused on football and to live with the salary that my club gave me. It was not a big salary but it was enough to put some petrol in my car to get to go to training and come back, and I think the sacrifice worked anyway. So that’s why I’m happy and proud of what I did.”
The versatile midfielder and defender says that he understands the realities of life outside of football due to that path.
He said: “I’ve been very, very patient. When I was young I tried to come through the academy, in different academies, but the problem was the same all the time, they were thinking I was a good player but not enough, but I was at the same level as their players so I don’t know if it was an excuse.
“Sometimes to say, ‘we don’t want you’ they have to say something more. It was the same all of the time but I kept working for a couple of years, at school also, even if I wanted to stop because I was thinking about the football.
“But when you reach around 18 years old you say ‘OK maybe the football is gone, the professional football is gone’ so you have to think about jobs.
“I went to school until 20, 21 and I had to make some money, to go to school, to go to training and enjoy life. So, I worked a little bit with my father to help him in his restaurant and sometimes with my mother also.
“It was really, really hard because it is not an easy job but it’s good for life and to know how it’s difficult to get money when you have nothing, no diploma, no job, - it’s really hard, especially when you are young.
“So that’s why I think I know life, how it is difficult for some people, they work I don’t know how many hours per week to have a small salary at the end of the month. So I’m happy to have this opportunity to play football and to enjoy a life because of football and I know in one moment it will be finished.”
Saiss is currently preparing to face Mauritania and travel to Burundi as Morocco bid for a spot at the African Cup of Nations.
Saiss qualifies for Morocco due to his father’s French-Moroccan heritage.
And he says footballers need to be aware of how lucky they are.
He said: “I know it is difficult, especially in a country like Morocco.
“We can see when we are in the national team, it is difficult for some children, so you have to be conscious – we have a sensational opportunity to play football, so we must be happy that we are here because we are really lucky to do this fantastic job.”