A teen scrabble sensation, Aliu Abdulqudus, has said he spent sleepless nights studying new words in order to win medals for Kwara State at the 7th National Youth Games in Asaba, Delta State. In this interview with Trust Sports, the 12-year old JSS 2 student of Government High School Adeta, Ilorin who won three gold medals in singles, doubles and team event spoke on his experiences as a teenage scrabble player and his future plans.
C0ngratulations. You won gold medals in singles, doubles and team event in scrabble. How did you achieve that?
It was hard work. There is an adage that says “Hard work really pays”. My sleepless nights yielded fruits. In the final against Team Anambra, it paid off for me. It was a tough game. I am a confident player but I didn’t believe I would win it because my opponent was leading with a very high score but God helped me.
You said you spent sleepless nights. In concrete terms, how did you prepare for the games?
It wasn’t easy. I can say I had uncountable sleepless nights to win medals at the games. Since I started playing scrabble, I became addicted to it. I am devoted to the sport. I learn new words. I plan to learn at least 150 words per day. So, to answer your question, I prepared adequately for the games.
What formed your choice of Scrabble as a sport?
Oh, when I was in primary six, I didn’t know what scrabble meant. But one day, I passed close to where they train scrabble players. I noticed they were always doing something there. So, one day my elder sister who knows the coach that teaches people how to play the game took me to him. When I watched at close quarters how they were playing, I developed interest. So, I also requested to join but the coach said I should focus on my primary six examinations. When I entered Junior Secondary School (JSS) One, the coach accepted me and I became a member of the club. I started by learning all the two letter words. There and then, I realised the benefits of playing scrabble. I played many games and won. Scrabble has encouraged me to read more because by doing so, I learn new words which I share with others and I am appreciated. Scrabble helps me a lot in vocabulary building.
How many words do you study per day and how many do you use off-hand?
I learn not less than 100 words which I write down every day. Like I said earlier, I am addicted to the game of scrabble. Sometimes I sleep up to 2 am but when I wake up, I will be on the computer to learn some words and moves. I usually learn at night.
What support have you received from your parents since you started playing scrabble?
My parents and my coach are my support system. I enjoy so much support from my parents. They bought a new kit for me and also a new phone to read. When I lost my phone and they couldn’t get enough money to buy a new one, I used my dad’s phone every night. My mum always gives me money for data, so that I can use it to play online. My parents have been supportive. I will always appreciate them. Even when I face some obstacles, they advise me on what to do so I will always be indebted to them.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt here in Asaba?
My experience in Asaba is fulfilling. I have learnt more about the spirit of sportsmanship. Sport is not a do-or-die affair. Above all, it pays to compete fairly.
What is your ultimate ambition in scrabble?
The number one ambition is to become a world champion. But first I want to be a national champion. It is for this reason that I am not going to rest on my oars. I have to keep improving on my game. I am going to devote more time to learning new words.
In August, you won silver at the maiden edition of the Africa Youth Scrabble Championship (AYSC) in Lagos. Share your experience with me…
It is a lifetime experience. It was like going out for a picnic. I met new friends, learned new words, and gained experience. That was the first major tournament I attended in my career.
How much did your experience in Lagos help you here in Asaba?
Like I said, I gained useful experience in my first major tournament in Lagos and I brought the knowledge to bear on the National Youth Games. As a matter of fact, I learnt some new moves in Lagos which I have used here.
How many boards do you have?
I don’t have a board but I usually play with my phone. I don’t have the money to buy a board. I used to have a paper board but I have sold it to my friend for N5,000 because I do not have anyone to play with. I am always at home reading words.
Do you play a bet in a scrabble game?
My coach usually advises against betting activities in scrabble. He has made us understand that betting is not good and that we should not engage in it. He usually says we should play our game and apply sportsmanship.
Who is your role model in scrabble?
My number one role model is the former world champion, Wellington Jighere. I always watch his game online. I also watch Nigel Richard. I watch master board games online.
Have you met with Jighere?
Yes, I met him at AYSC and I used to chat with him online. He calls me champ. Jighere inspires me greatly. I hope to be a champion one day.