“In football, there is no magic in good success” – Hussaini
Isaac Hussaini is a Kogi State born professional football player who was brought up in sokoto, Nigeria. In this interview with our reporter, Gaius Jeff Yadima in Abuja, he narrated how he thrived hard through his little beginning to become an international celebrated Professional footballer even as he harped on other issues associated with football.
CAN WE MEET YOU SIR?
Yes my name is Isaac Hussaini. I am a Professional Footballer. By my origin, I hail from Kogi State but I was brought up in Sokoto State Nigeria.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FOOTBALL CAREER ESPECIALLY AS REGARD YOUR LITTLE BEGINNING
Well it has not been easy from day one. It was a battle right from the scratch. I came from a humble beginning as a truck pusher but God has shown me His Grace and favor. I am the last born in my family so my family never wanted me to play football. Apart from my mum, none of them believed that I would make it in life through football.
No body supported my dream apart from my mother because a typical African Nigerian society believe that a child can only succeed in life when he/she goes to school. They believe education is the key to success and nothing else.
Thank God for my mother for her spiritual and financial support at all times. I need not to tell you that she is my number one supporter alongside my lovely and beautiful wife whom we just tied the nuptial knot recently.
In spite of our background, I was determine to make it in football, so God and my hard work brought me this far.
HOW DID YOU STARTED PURSUING YOUR DREAM OF BECOMING A WORLD CELEBRATED FOOTBALLER?
It all started from the street as it is common with any other child in a local setting. As a truck pusher in a transport car park in sokoto, I started playing in the garage with other boys. After hustling every evening, we the wheelbarrow pushers would park our truck, divide ourselves into two teams and play with rubber ball.
One day, a passenger with his luggage who came back from a journey on a fateful evening, called me and told me that he had been watching how I play for a while and had discovered that I can play even with bigger teams. He spoke to me in Hausa saying; “kai dan kwalo ne na kwarai kuma kafi karfin wanan yaran ai. Mai yasa kana bata lokacin ka a garaji, ka iya kwallo sosai walahi. Ka bar su, ka nema team mai kyau, zaka yi walwala a kwalon kafa”. Meaning, you are a good player above the standard of this kind of street football, why are you wasting your time here, why not leave and get a bigger team?.
I was highly motivated. I made efforts the following day and joined some old men (old timers) who play behind the garage and continue playing with them.
HOW DID YOU MAKE IT TO A GOOD TEAM?
I joined a local team call Real Stars after getting small exposure from those old timers playing behind the garage. They play local grassroots state leagues. I met the coach one evening during their training and told him that I wanted to join the team. He gave me a chance and I proved myself. So he registered me in the team and I played there for about two years.
I admit I was not one of the skilled or talented players but I was humble to learn from other team mates. Almost everyone was ahead of me but then, determination, consistency and God’s grace kept me going. One day, I was pushing my truck and I came across an advert on NTA in one of the shops informing the general public about Kwara Football Academy form which was on sale.
I copied the number and took it to my elder sister who surfed the net and made some findings. He later told me that it was genuine. The form was N2,500. I did not have money at hand but my sister gave me the money.
I was Opportune to be in Kaduna for the trials during Clement Westerholf who was a former Super Eagles Coach. I was not fortunate to be picked because my huge size was against me. I was in my full strength and the manner in which I was shooting the ball woo all the scouts. However, they said I was over age and my strength was not for boys in the academy.
But to be honest, I was 14 years old. They even alleged that I played for one professional team called Julius Berger or perhaps other big teams. I told the coach that I was a small boy who was only fed well but he said he was going to pick me but for Kwara United team and not in the academy.
They took me to kwara and I was in kwara united team. My roommate was Gbenga Arekoya former, Super Eagles player. I was given N30,000 and football Kits. I Ignorantly signed for Kwara United and later, I felt cheated for removing me from my mates to Kwara United which was preparing for a continental championship. But as a child, I just wanted to play in the academy and then play in Europe. No one was there to guide me.
I said to myself, boy you have been cheated and that’s not what you want. You won’t believe my impatience and ignorance made me to run away from the camp. Yes! I left the camp without saying a word to anyone straight to Niger Republic.
HOW THEN WAS YOUR LIFE IN NIGER REPUBLIC LIKE?
I arrived Niger Republic as an amateur player with little exposure I got from Kwara United. I signed a premier league club with salary of N13,500 but did not last there because I had no much experience. I was sacked mid-season and dropped. So came back to sokoto and joined a club called Flash Planner, where I met Sherif Isa whom we both went for U-17 trials.
I played for two years in the team and left for Niger again. This time around, I was not invited by any club, I took myself to Niger to get a club for myself and fortunately I got a club which was newly promoted to premier league. My allowance was N40 weekly. Yes! N40 weekly. I was there on my own so to them, it was a big favour they were doing for me. I slept on the floor alongside cockroaches and rats. That was how I was accommodated.
Surprisingly, other Professional players from cote D’voire, Mali and Cameroon were well accommodated and taken care of because they were invited. I did not even have good boots. It was a player from Sokoto United, Mr. Hilary Azodo that gave me one of his training canvas.
Throughout the trials time, I was left in that condition. But the nature of how I played made the coach and team manager to like me. Though the owner of the club believe in professionals, those that played for big teams with big names. He saw me as a cheap player because I came on bike while other players flew into the country with prestige and capacity.
WHY DIDN’T THE COACH AND THE TEAM MANAGER INTERVENED TO HELP YOU, KNOWING FULLY WELL THAT YOU WERE PLAYING WELL?
They actually intervened. They told him that they had seen a lot of potentials in me and not just a training material but he insisted that I was just a training material who may not be able to play very good football during a good match.
At the end of the trials, a competition came up and only 8 clubs were registered for the championship. It was the biggest challenge Cup in Niger Republic.The team president did not pay transport fare for me because he did not believe that I will deliver. He told the coach and Team manager that even if they will pay for my fare, I would not join the official bus with the other professional players. So the coach and the manager gave me money to follow a commercial vehicle to the City which I did.
Arriving the City, my team mates were lodged in an Hotel and I was taken to one of the fans one small cubicle to stay. I was not worried. I rather encouraged myself that I would excel except if I was not given the chance to play in the crowd.
I knew I was one of the best defensive Midfielder in the team and God was there for me. The Coach called me and told me that they had taken a big risk by taking me there against the wish of their principal and so they wanted me to prove him wrong.
They said I was not part of the line up approved by the president but they had insisted that I should start the match. The president told them to feature the Cote D’voire National player to start ahead of me but they said it was better to take another player out of the team and have me play because the team would be playing against one of the big clubs in Niger with much experienced, talented and exposed footballers.
According to them, the president was not happy and so had dared them that he would give me transport to leave their country if I flopped in the match. They asked me what I needed at the moment and I told them to get me coffee, Nescafe to be precise.
They got it for me and after taking it, I warmed up on my own while other players warmed up as a team. In the dressing room, I was the last person to be given a jersey. The coach looked into my eyes and said he had confidence in me and so I should prove my worth. When the game kicked off, I was composed, confident and focus. I made sure all my passes were accurate and distance covered accordingly. I started shooting from all angles to the Glory of God.
The coach studied the game and discovered that I could single handedly play the defensive midfield so he changed the pattern of the game and that confused our opponents. He told the Ivoirian player to play ahead of me. We started playing more of attacking and I was doing the dirty job at the midfield. We got a free kick 20minutes into the game and it yielded a clean goal for us.
Our fans started chanting my name whenever I possessed the ball and that gave me much confidence. The game ended 3:1 in our favour. The vice president of Niger Republic who sat close to my club president asked how much he would sell me to his club.
Immediately after the game, the opponents’ agent was there with a very juicy offer for me to join their team. My club president sent for me and I met up at the pavilion. He told me that he knew I was given an offer but then I should tell him what I want and he would have a deal for me but I signed for the the club and played for 4 years in Niger Republic.
WHICH POSITION DO YOU PLAY IN THE FIELD OF GAME?
As I said earlier, I am a defensive midfielder. That is number four. My coaches usually switch me to play other wings such as central defense, side defense and sometimes attacking midfield when situation demands. I can confidently play those positions except goalkeeping.
SHARE WITH US SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN YOUR CAREER?
I had sustained a lot of injuries. I had fractures on my hand and on my two legs. There was a certain time I broke my hand and had to return home for treatment. For six months I had no salary and nothing was coming forth. I sold everything I had and people started mocking me saying all kinds of things. I however knew that God was there for me. So when I recuperated left the country again for Sudan.
Again, when I was in FC Taraba. I had neither agent, phone nor international passport to travel out of the country. So one day I collected a ladies phone and log-in to my facebook account where I got a message in my messenger from a friend who is playing in Italy.
The message reads: “ Young man where are you? we have been looking for you for the past five months. Please kindly reply this chat with any number to contact you. An agent is looking for a defensive midfielder and I recommended you”.
I immediately embarked on the process to honour this invitation. It took me a while owing to my poor background. I got in touch with the agent but there was no money to do international passport so I borrowed N153,000 to pay back N450,000. I did the passport but no money to pay for my ticket to Sudan when I got the Visa.
You can imagine it took me more than two weeks to look for the money but all my efforts were in vein. The light was cancelled and rescheduled.
I later got the money to travel to kano. That day, I wore my only shorts and sleeveless shirt alongside my small boot in a small bag.
The immigration officers were wondering who on earth was leaving the shores of the country and was dressed in such manner. I told them I was a footballer who just got an invite for a trials in Sudan, they should please allow me to catch up my flight.
They searched my bag and wished me good luck. To the Glory of God I landed safely in sudan, played a match and signed one year contract for S20,000 Dollars with a Club the next day.
I want to also recall another challenge I faced along the line in this career. When I was playing in FC Taraba, my salary was N200,000 but I played for 9 months without seen a penny.
Infact, a lady in my church saw me one day and asked me if I was an orphan. I looked so tattered. I only managed to tell her that should the government was paying me I would have been a millionaire. She gave me N500 to cut my hair and she also bought soap, cream and detergent for me.
Aside all these issues, I also faced another serious challenge of adapting to the environment, culture, food and lifestyles of most of these Arab countries I played for.
HOW MANY CLUBS HAVE YOU PLAYED FOR?
In Nigeria, I played for Dalatu United, Sharks FC, Dolfins FC (Now Rivers United), Assurance FC, FC Taraba. I played for Zamfara United for one season before going to Benin Republic and back to Niger Republic for a continental championship. I played in Benin Republic, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and currently in Baharain.
WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS?
My team was the champions of the league title in Niger Republic, in Benin Republic, my team won the premier league title as champions and we came second in the league in the Sudanese champions league.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM?
My dream is to wear the national jersey and go on a national assignment for my dear country Nigeria. I have been contacted recently by NFF so I believe my dream is coming to reality. For me to reach the peak of my career, I hope to play in one of the big clubs in Europe next season. I have an undisclosed deal in Europe already.
YOU JUST TIED THE NUPTIAL KNOT, HOW DID YOU MET THE BEAUTIFUL DAMSEL?
I met my wife on Facebook. It was not easy. I was throwing passes at her since 2016 but not even a ‘hi’ comes from her. I can’t tell why I did not give up on her. All through my stay in Kenya I was always poking her via her social media handle, disturbing her DM but madam no reply me.
When I suspected that my ex-girlfriend was pregnant, I went straight to my wife’s DM and begged her that even if she would not reply my message, she should please send me her whatsapp number so she could help me verify something.
It took her time but she eventually sent it. I told her that she actually did not know me that is why she doesn’t want to reply me but she should please take a look at the picture of the lady I sent to you and tell me if the lady was pregnant or not. She checked and got back to me that the girl was pregnant. I told her that the lady was my girlfriend and I was so depressed with the sad news.
We continue kept getting in touch and she was always encouraging and praying alongside with me towards my career. I knew God was setting a path for me to follow and I quickly obeyed him by following his footsteps. She is the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.
Just like my mother, she is always there for me, supporting me spiritually, morally and otherwise. I am glad to marry Ifemi my dreamed wife whom I will choose over and over again.
WHAT WILL BE YOUR ADVICE TO UPCOMING FOOTBALLERS?
For the younger stars coming behind us, I encourage them to be focus and put in more efforts, work hard and shouldn’t be carried away by youthful exuberance because skills drain faster than Corona Virus.
Let them be full of determination, listen to the instructions of their coaches, be willing to learn from those ahead of them, be confident and most importantly, pray hard and the ball will bounce well for them.
There is no magic in good success in the game of football. by the Grace of God, everything you see around me is not magic but a product of hard work and sacrifice, backed by the grace of God. Truely it takes the Grace of God for one to excel in football but then, the gains are enamour.