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Dec 5, 2008

Perth Glory's big Dadi

''Don't worry about my body... my body's fine,'' says Eugene Dadi, as he breaks into a chuckle. ''Stop asking about my body!''

Aged 35, the Perth Glory striker is a veteran of two decades of competitive football, starting as a teenager in the youth team of French club, Sochaux. So far his body is holding up just fine in the Hyundai A-League, although he did miss a couple of matches with a groin injury that slowed down his goal-scoring start to the season.

His journey to Western Australia and the world's most isolated major city started in his home town of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, and as well as France, included stops along the way in Austria, Scotland, England - playing for three clubs including Nottingham Forest and Notts County - and Israel.

Dadi wears his dreadlocked hair in a pineapple shape and his flamboyant on-field celebrations have a grounding in a previous career as an actor and part-time model. For over a year, he played an American parachutist in a stage show in Austria. He also has his own fashion label.

He was a fan favourite at Austrian club, LASK Linz, and had cult hero status during a season at Aberdeen (the Dons' ''Who's your, who's your, who's your Dadi?'' chant has been adopted by Glory fans) and perhaps had his greatest success on the Wirral in England with Tranmere Rovers, with a club's best 28 goals in two seasons.

He was capped once by his African nation back in 2000 after earlier giving up professional football for two years following the death of his father. During that period he went to Indian Ocean island of Reunion, a French territory, to sell real estate before being spotted playing park football and offered a contract at LASK.

After having a move to Perth blocked by his former Israeli club, Hapoel Acre, in November 2007, Dadi belatedly joined the Glory in March and embarked on an impressive pre-season tour of China.

He's formed an unlikely but effective strike partnership at Members Equity Stadium with Ukrainian-born Olyroo striker, Nikita Rukavytsya. Up to the end of round 13, Rukavytsya had scored eight goals and Dadi five: a greater tally than the feared tandem of Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp at A-League leaders, Melbourne Victory.

Although they're again long shots to make the final four after another slow start to the season, Perth are growing in confidence and momentum, with Dadi picking up some important, late goals.

His 78th minute penalty gave Dave Mitchell's side their first win of the campaign against Wellington Phoenix in round-5 and he scored a 92nd minute equaliser, another spot-kick in the 2-2 draw with premiers, Newcastle Jets in round-11.

This is one big Dadi, he's 1.88m (6ft 2in), who's good in the air and also skilful on the ground with plenty of trickery: his deft lay back to Rukavytsya set up the Glory's second goal in the round-13 home draw with Central Coast Mariners.

Dadi can also speak fluent French and German but he chose his third language of English for his chat with ESPNsoccernet about the Glory's up-and-down season, his best memories from European football and how he keeps his body (sorry, we mentioned it again!) going in professional football in his mid-30s.

Q: Eugene, it's been a tough season so far for Perth but you have been scoring goals. What do you think of the A-League?

A: Good. The A-League is nice. It's nice to play here. The team didn't perform so well at the start of the season but it's much more positive now and we're playing good football. Unfortunately, the results aren't always showing the good work we're doing but we are moving in the right direction. The team will rise again!

Q: At the age of 35, how close are you to being in your prime on a physical level?

A: Don't worry about my body... my body's fine. Stop asking about my body! My body's fine, honestly, do I look like I'm 35? (Smiling) There are players in the league who are a bit younger than me but look older and I've always tried throughout my career to prepare well. I don't drink or smoke and maintain a healthy lifestyle, which I think has helped me continue to play at a high level. I definitely think I'm physically able to compete in the league and think I can for a few years yet!

Q: Your background is rich and diverse. What do you consider to be the highlight of your playing career?

A: I played for the national team (in the Ivory Coast). That was a dream, playing in front of my Mum and my family. That was great. And also I've been lucky to play for two of the great clubs in Europe, I would say, who won the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. We're talking about Aberdeen and Nottingham Forest. It's something to be proud of.

Q: What you tell about your acting career in Austria?

A: I did acting for a year. It was a 20 minutes on stage twice a week for a year. It was good. I had a role of an American parachutist. It was really nice to be involved in this. It was something new. I really enjoyed it.

Q: Where should Perth be aiming to finish for this season?

A: We should always be aiming for the top four, even now, we're not that far behind. Obviously it's harder now with fewer games to come but a few good results could help us. I understand the (earlier) disappointment about the way we were playing. But we've got a great squad and great players. I've always said we're going to find out how good we are when we're in trouble. Now we are fighting back.

Q: Where do you see yourself living after football? Do you see yourself spending more time in Australia?

A: I don't know yet. We'll see. For the moment, I'm enjoying it. It's a beautiful country. I hope so.

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