Former Nigeria U-17 and U-20 playmaker Ibrahim Alhassan Mu’azzam enjoys being likened to erstwhile Super Eagles captain Kanu Nwankwo. Standing at 6-foot 3 and half inches, Mu’azzam has load of tricks in the leg like his idol and two-time Africa Player of the Year winner, Kanu.
He once formed a formidable partnership with Leicester star Kelechi Iheanacho at the U-17 Golden Eagles finishing as joint top scorer in the qualifiers ahead of the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON held in Morocco in 2013.
After helping the U20 team win the 2015 CAF Championship, he had brief stints with local clubs, Wikki Tourists, and Akwa United before jetting out to Austria where he plays for FK Austria on loan. Last session, he made a permanent move to Portugal side CD Nacional where he has become a dominant figure in midfield.
In this interview with MORAKINYO ABODUNRIN, Mu’azzam speaks intimately about things dear to his heart even as he traces his soccer journey from Nigeria to Portugal. Excerpts…
From Austria to Portugal
Moving from one country to another has helped me gain a lot of experience, particularly learning to position myself as a midfielder. You know everywhere you go, there are different philosophy, different ideology, different principal and different way of play. In Austria, I was playing 8 to be precise, so I really learn to play in that position really well but moving to Portugal was completely different because they changed my position to number 6 as central defensive midfielder and I adjusted.
However, I gained a lot of experience by listening to the coaches, watching clips of good players that are playing in that position to help me play better.
Playing in Nigeria is totally different from Austria and Austria is different from Portugal but we bless God for helping me to adjust well in whatever position I found myself. This season I’ve played every minute of all the games in the league. I’m so happy with that.
Yeah, I feel really bad when CD Nacional was relegated, but you know that is the game of football so we have to let it go and think what we did wrong and what we have to do right. We are doing well in the second division as we are first on the table and the most important thing is we are working hard to take the club back to where it belongs, the first division in Portugal.
We knew we don’t belong to the lower division and it is bad for players too because your ratings drop. I felt bad that I couldn’t help the team stay up, so it is up to us to take the team back to the top division. That is our focus.
I think this season is certainly better than the last. Last year was really challenging; a new player coming from another club in New York and from another country. I had a lot of understanding to do; new team, new players, new coach, new ideology, and new way of playing.
My saving grace was that my wife is now here with me. I had difficulty living alone without help from my wife and I had to deal with injuries too. This time around, my wife is there to give me support and I am free of injury. I have settled down nicely and even learning their language, the Portuguese language, really well. But above all, I am okay, I am confident that the season would bring good tidings.
From Ortega to Kanu
When I was growing up I was nicknamed Ortega by someone that supported Argentina national team due to his admiration for Ariel Ortega. He loves Ortega and he just gave me the name. He said I played like the Argentinean. That made me to check out his video clips on YouTube because I never saw him play. So, I grew up with the name and a lot of people in my area called me by the name Ortega. When I got to the Nigeria U 17 national team because of my physical resemblance with Kanu Nwankwo, my fans began to liken me to Kanu.
Super Eagles invitation
Of course, if I am given the opportunity I will grab it. If the coach thinks that I am useful for his programme I will definitely honour the invitation. I love to play for Nigeria but the most important thing is to keep working hard. To keep playing for my club and one day the invitation from the senior national team will come. I am doing my best and I will leave that decision to the coaches to make.
I am really happy to see my friends in the U17 and U 20 team doing great job with the national teams, especially in the Super Eagles. I can’t wait to also join them and be with them to wear the colours of the nation and make myself and Nigerians proud. But I can tell you that I’m 100 percent ready. I’m waiting patiently for the time to come. I believe that it is not yet time, but when the time comes, definitely nothing can stop me from going there and doing what I know how to do best.
I met the woman of my life and I got married to my best friend, the woman I love, last year June; precisely, June 16th 2019. My wife has all the qualities I want in a woman. She is simple and easy to be with.