Calvin Bassey suddenly laughs out loud when he sees his teammate Kenneth Taylor giving an interview to a television crew after training. “He is really that funny”, says the new central defender of Ajax with a voice that skips. “But not as funny as Brian Brobbey. What a guy he is.”
Bassie, as they call him in Amsterdam, screams and folds his fingers into a heart when he sees Edson Álvarez walking in the distance. He already seems to feel quite at home with the champion from the capital. “Hello friends,” he said to his new fans shortly after his presentation. Just before that video on the internet, the media department of Ajax had updated him about a television series with clown Bassie and acrobat Adriaan.
With his previous clubs Leicester City and Rangers FC, Bassey also had a nickname. There they called him “Big Shirley” after the singer Shirley Bassey who recorded the title song of three James Bond films, among other things. “I don’t know why they always have a nickname for me”, replies Bassey. but well meant.”
Bassey was born in the Italian city of Modena, the son of two Nigerian parents. He grew up with his mother, who worked as a hairdresser, and three brothers in east London. “A rough neighborhood,” he says. “But London has more such areas. I played football there every day in the streets. I wanted to become a professional.”
Leicester City saw something in Bassey and two years later the defender switched to Rangers FC, with whom he reached the final of the Europa League last season under coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Ajax brought him to Amsterdam this summer for 23 million euros as a successor to Lisandro Martínez.
Anyone who saw Bassey play football against FC Utrecht and SC Cambuur in recent weeks saw a lightning-fast and physically strong defender. “But I have to get used to Ajax’s playing style,” he says. “No one has a real position. Everyone is playing football together.”
Bassey, who plays his caps for Nigeria, is still popular with fans of his old Scottish side. Rangers FC supporters bought shirts from Bassey in the Ajax fan shop two weeks ago. They were in Amsterdam for the match against PSV in the play-offs of the Champions League.
“I think they will grant me this switch,” says Bassey, who could hardly believe that Ajax was linked to Rangers during the draw for the group stage of the Champions League. “After that draw I spoke to some former teammates. I also visited them in the hotel when they were here for that match against PSV. But after that I no longer needed them. It is now ‘dog-eat- dog”, as we say in England. Everyone for themselves. I now want to focus fully on Wednesday’s first group match against them. Of course Ajax is the favorite for me. We will also win if we all have more than 100 percent.”