16-year-old playmaker of the Youth Arise Football Academy (YAFA) Abuja, Kabiru Muhammed, has said his ultimate ambition is to play for LaLiga giants, Real Madrid and the Super Eagles of Nigeria. In this interview with Trust Sports, the Kebbi State born youngster spoke on how he started playing football in the dusty streets of Birin-Kebbi, the challenges he faces as a teenage footballer, how he wants to combine football with education and his ultimate ambition to play professional football in Europe.
What is your name and how did you start playing football?
My name is Kabiru Muhammed. I am from Kebbi State. I started playing football at the age of five in Birin-Kebbi where I lived with my parents. I developed interest in the game because my father Muhammed Hamidu was a football player. He used to take me along with him to the football field. It was at that time that I started learning how to play football. And when my father saw that I have the ability to play, he encouraged me by buying boots and other training kits for me.
How did you get into Youth Arise Football Academy (YAFA) Abuja?
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When I completed my primary education, I left Kebbi State to come and stay with my paternal grandfather in Abuja. When I came, he enrolled me into Model Day Secondary School Maitama and that was where I got to know about Abuja YAFA. The academy makes use of the school’s football pitch. So, when I told my grandpa that I wanted to join the academy, he took me to Coach Olagbemiro Olayinka who is the proprietor. They discussed and agreed that I should join the academy. So, I joined YAFA in 2013 and even after my secondary education, I have remained with the academy. I am now one of the senior players there.
What do you find most interesting about the academy?
I like YAFA because the academy is not only about football but the overall development of the players. The president of the academy, Coach Yinka, is like a father to all of us. Apart from football, he inculcates into us discipline, hard work and honesty. In YAFA, everybody is encouraged to go to school. Some of my teammates have already secured admissions in foreign universities. YAFA is also exposing us to football scouts who come to Nigeria from abroad to look for young players. We have attended so many scouting programmes. Indications are strong that very soon, many of us would have the opportunity to study and develop our football skills abroad. Furthermore, the academy welcomes kids of ages. Once you are able to kick the ball, there is space for you. Above all, YAFA is one of the most organised football academies in Nigeria.
What are the major challenges you are facing as a young footballer?
I will say lack of sponsors. In this part of the country, it is hard for one to get sponsorship. Even national teams struggle to find corporate organisations to sponsor them. I believe that if we are adopted or sponsored by organisations, it will be easier for us to get training kits and be exposed to international competitions. Most of us are from average backgrounds so it is not always easy for them to meet our basic needs. When your father is struggling to feed the family, buying playing boots for you becomes a secondary need. So, it has not been easy for me but I am not going to give up. I am passionate about football.
How do you intend to combine education with football?
I know that I cannot play football forever so I want to have a plan B which is educational certificates. Therefore, I wish to further my education by studying international relations. But even if I get admission, I will continue to play football.
Why do you want to study international relations?
I am peace loving so I want to prepare myself to become a diplomat when I must have stopped playing football. I want to travel to different countries to know more about the world and its people and their cultures. I like travelling so I know that if I am a diplomat, I will have the opportunity to travel widely.
If you were asked to choose between football and education, what would be your first choice?
I know the value of education but I will go for football before education. I know that even while I am playing football, I will be studying. And if I can’t combine the two, I will go back to school when I am done playing football. It is never too late to go to school.
What do you think is so special about you as a footballer?
I use both feet very well. I have no preferred foot. In fact, many people think I am a left footed player but I can shoot with both feet. When I have to shoot with my left foot I do it very well just the way I do on my right foot. I can’t explain why most people think I am stronger with the left foot. In addition, I have close ball control and I can dribble even in tight spaces. People say I am talented but I am not getting carried away because I know that I still have a lot to learn. I am just starting so I want to keep improving.
What is your ultimate ambition in football?
My dream is to play professional football in Europe and also play for the Super Eagles. Just like any other talented player, I will feel more fulfilled, if I represent my country in football. It is not going to happen overnight but I am ready to wait.
You are 16 years old so you should be talking about Golden Eaglets but here you are already dreaming of the Super Eagles. Is it correct to count two before one?
I know I am supposed to start with the Golden Eaglets but I am not hopeful because of the negative stories I hear from those who attempted to play for the junior national teams. So, I prefer to move straight to Europe from where I can come home to play for the Super Eagles.
What is your favourite club in Europe?
I support Real Madrid and I want to play for the club in future. Cristiano Ronaldo made me fall in love with the club. I like his hard work and the way he plays football. Although he has left Madrid, I still have Toni Kross to inspire me. In fact, Kross and Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City are now my role models.
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