Ex-footballer now sells his artwork to Jack Grealish after injury forced retirement

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  • June 10, 2023
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Boogie Moli mastered the art of football from an early age.

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his family emigrated to the UK at 10 years old.

Moli lived in Luton, where he says, ‘you’re either on the streets or you play football.’

He left home at 11 to embark on a dream apprenticeship at Liverpool FC, where he roomed with Raheem Sterling

Three years later, the teenager joined the Wolverhampton Wanderers; however, his career was soon plagued by injuries and he spent more time on the side lines than on the pitch.

By the age of 24, a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) set the scene for earlier retirement.

But in the midst of a depression, and during rehabilitation, Moli found a new love: painting.

Now, aged just 28, feels like he’s lived ‘two lives’ as a result of his diverging path. 

Moli told Metro.co.uk: ‘There have been ups and downs, of course you hit rock bottom and need to climb back up – but I don’t look at it just like that. To me it’s a journey, everything is part of a wider story. 

‘If you get an ACL injury like me, that’s at least a year you’re out and you’re going to be in crutches. You can’t run, you’re limited on what you can do, it brings you down. But you still have your hands – so you can be creative. 

‘I had the opportunity to come back after my knee healed but I decided to retire from my football career and focus on my art.’

Boogie first took a brush to trainers and started selling them to friends, but soon moved on to canvases and developed his own graffiti-style of work.

Since hanging up his boots, his painting career has gone from strength to strength.

He’s become known as the Premiership’s most successful commissioned artist with the likes of Jack Grealish, Antonio Rudiger , Reece James and Eniola Aluko all calling his work their own.

Boogie is now determined to continue to climb the leagues of the art world, with his latest exhibition now underway at London’s Quantus Gallery.

Moli Icons celebrates sporting icons such as Pelé, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, but is also underpinned by a layered social and cultural commentary, including nods to his African roots.

His hand-picked icons also include Nelson Mandela and ‘the richest man in history’ medieval Malian king Mansa Musa, who travelled to Mecca in 1325 with a tonne of gold as spending money.

Boogie started each piece by envisioning the background, then building up the piece with no more than five colours.

And, if you look closely, you’ll see elements of pop art tucked away in each portrait.

Boogie hopes people can be inspired by the icons he’s chosen, and perhaps even pick up their own paintbrush.

He continued: ‘I’m proud of this and these icons are people know, can relate to – there’s something for everybody.

‘I hope i’m an insiaation to anyone that knows m work and knows my journey. I didnt een know i could go down this route, become an artist and make a living by doing it.

‘There will be millionsother who just dont see tht as a possibility either. I want to show anting is possible if you put your mind to it.

‘I’m African, so I always want to represent that side of me and my culture, including Mandela is an example of that. I wanted to bring everything in my world, my icons, into one – into this exhibition.

‘This is something we really took time to plan out, we wanted to do it properly. I made sure every piece was perfect, I tried a new technique.’

Visitors to the Quantus Gallery will enjoy 25 new original paintings, limited edition prints, collectible hand embellished football boots and paint-embellished footballs.

Boogie joins Grove Gallery’s impressive roll call of artists, which includes Opake, Eve de Haan, Banksy, David Shrigley, Stony, Lauren Baker, Clarke Reynolds, Christian Furr, Frances Segelman and Rob Munday.

Moli Icons runs from June 8-July 5 at Grove Gallery, 11-29 Fashion Street, London, E1 6PX.



The full list of luminaries in Moli Icons is as follows:

1. Pelé

Late Brazilian footballer

Moli: ‘The greatest footballer that ever lived.’

2. Run DMC

Pioneering hip-hop trio

Moli: ‘Run’s House was my favourite TV show growing up.’

3. Mensa Musa

Medieval Malian emperor

Moli: ‘I’m really big on history, originated from Mali’s Mensa Musa, who was the wealthiest person that ever lived.’

4. Michael Jordan

Basketballer

Moli: ‘He single-handedly changed how we see basketball today and created the most iconic sneaker line ever.’

5. Muhammad Ali

Boxing heavyweight champion aka ‘The Greatest’

Moli: ‘I’m a man of morals and what Ali stood for inspired generations and the world of sport.’

6. Nelson Mandela

Anti-apartheid activist and first president of South Africa

Moli: ‘Nelson Mandela taught me to always stand firm on what you believe and nobody could ever break you.’

7. Michael Jackson

Controversial entertainer

Moli: “As a kid all I wanted to do in my spare time was play football and dance like Michael Jackson.”

8. John Lennon

Former Beatle

Moli: “I lived in Liverpool for a few years and learned a lot about The Beatles and the impact he had on music and the city.”

9. Marilyn Monroe

US actress, model and singer.

Moli: “A very beautiful woman.”

10. Tony “Scarface” Montana

Supervillain played by Al Pacino in 1983 film Scarface.

Moli: “One of my favourite movies of all time.”

11. Jean-Michel Basquiat

Influential New York artist whose Untitled (1982) is one of the most expensive paintings ever purchased ($110.5m).

Moli: “My favourite artist.”

12. Andy Warhol

Pop Art legend.

13. Keith Haring

Revered artist who emerged from New York’s graffiti subculture in the 1980s.

14. Pablo Picasso

One of the 20th Century’s most influential artists; co-founder of Cubism.

15. Tupac Shakur

US rapper.

Moli: “What Tupac did in his 25 years alive was insane; he wasn’t afraid to talk about things he believed in no matter the consequences.”

16. The Notorious BIG

Hip-Hop legend.

17. Virgil Abloh

Late US fashion designer and artistic director at Vuitton.

Moli: “He changed the face of fashion, merging both street culture and high-end fashion together so beautifully.”

18. Daft Punk

French dance music duo.

Moli: “They’ve created some of the most iconic music, plus I love the masks that concealed their faces.”

19. Amy Winehouse

British singer and songwriter.

Moli: “Because I love her.”

20. Whitney Houston

R&B superstar

Moli: “My favourite singer.”

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