“I remember my Dad taking me to a hospital when I was 16 to get growth hormones – like Messi had.” They said, “You’re too late.” There are capsules in your bones, and if they’re shut that’s it – and mine were basically shut. They said the most I was going to grow is one or two centimetres, and I didn’t even grow that.”
Erhun Oztumer is 5ft 3in and scored 60 goals in two seasons for Dulwich Hamlet. In a glorious spell with the South London side, he won the Ryman Division One South in 2013 and missed out on a play-off place in the Ryman Premier on the final day of last season. Such astonishing output established him as a non-league player of rare quality, a number 10 with an exquisite left foot, elegant touch and graceful poise, so much so that League One club Peterborough United came calling last summer. But, having finally convinced a professional club of his talents, he is now out of favour again. He has not played a game for the Posh since the departure of former manager Darren Ferguson.
It has been a long and convoluted route up to this point, with years of upheaval and self-doubt, via the backwaters of Turkish football and the depths of the English football pyramid.
The simple fact that he stands only little more than a metre and a half off the ground has dictated his career path in football. He was so evidently the outstanding player on the pitch at Dulwich, but that he resembled a smurf in a land of giants was inescapable. Too short for Charlton Athletic, where he spent seven years in their academy, and too short for the wealth of scouts that watched him during his non-league days at Champion Hill in South London.