Bursaspor of Turkey’s utility player, Shehu Abdullahi, has revealed the secret behind sealing his place in the national team since earning first call up in 2014.
The former Kano Pillars star player, in this interview with Bunmi Ogunyale, also shared his immediate and future aspirations, stressing that he’s having healthy competition for shirt with Ola Aina and Bryan Idowu in the national team.
Your teeming fans would love to know what your background is like?
I grew up on the streets of Sokoto, going to school and also playing football. It was difficult growing up and chasing my dreams.
I crossed many hurdles, had setbacks, but I kept to lane of my dreams. At a point, I started getting the support of my family and that helped me to stay focused despite the challenges as a young footballer.
Can you share your experience us at Kano Pillars before your sojourn abroad?
It was a great moment for me. I played with the best players in the League then. We won NPFL titles back-to-back. We created special moments for fans. Absolutely, my best memories in Nigeria, it was lovely.
How have you been able to keep your place in the national team since earning your first call up as a local league player?
It’s simply due to hard work. I have to work hard always. Nigeria has got talents everywhere in the world. Our generation is more competitive; players are emerging every day, which is good for the national team. It means anyone that gets the chance deserves it and must not take it for granted, but rather take it as a huge privilege.
What is the competition for shirt like with the likes of Bryan Idowu, Ola Aina and a host of other players in the national team?
Competition is good for the team; it is good for the coach to have options. It’s one big family for us, anyone that plays must be supported, we are there to represent our country, and this is not a personal battle but about the country we love. It’s a great honour to compete with other guys in order to represent my county.
Having played in Kuwait, Portugal and now in Turkey, what other top European leagues and club sides are you aspiring to star for in the nearest future?
England and Spain, I love Germany as well. I’m looking forward to what the future has for me.
Over the years the African Footballer of the Year award has eluded Nigerian players. How soon do you think a Nigerian player can win the prestigious award?
Very soon! The likes of Chukwueze (Samuel), Osimhen (Victor), Aribo (Joe), Iwobi (Alex) and a host of them are very young. They have got the potentials and they have started playing for the big teams and also in the big leagues in Europe. Unfortunately, we have not won for a while, but I believe it will come soon.
Nigeria is grouped alongside Liberia, Cape Verde and Central African Republic in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. How do you fancy Super Eagles’ chance of qualifying for the Mundial?
We have to work and be careful. There won’t be space for mistakes. We have been on similar roads before and we understand the challenges that come with it. I want to assure our fans, we shall work hard to put smile on their faces and make them happy.
How difficult is the Turkish league?
I’ve played in two divisions in Turkey; the league is competitive and difficult like the top five European Leagues. The second division is even more difficult because of the pace. They have sharp players in that division. The league might not be visible for Nigerians on TV, but it’s a competitive league, I am glad to play here.
Can you tell us your toughest opponent ever and why?
Casilas in the Portugese league. In the game, I played advance role. He denied me a lot of times in that game; I would have scoreda hat trick, but he denied me.
What is your greatest strength as a defender?
My greatest strength is the fact that I can play several roles on the pitch. I give the coaches options and I do adapt to any position I am asked to play on.
On a lighter mood, what’s your brand of car?
Range Rover. (Smiles).
How do you relax off the pitch?
I play video games with friends.
What would you have been if not a footballer?
My father wanted me to study law. I also wanted to be a businessman. Anyway, I feel I could have been of a businessman.
You seem to be close to Super Eagles’ captain, Ahmed Musa. What is the relationship like?
We’ve been friends for over a decade, since our days in the NPFL, we have mutual respect for each other. He is someone I’m honoured to share a relationship with.