Nigeria’s Super Eagles defender Musa Mohammed is currently one of the most talked about players in African football. His ability to intercept play, make good tackles and his reading of the game have been likened to the legendary Paolo Maldini.
New Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has also been full of praise for Mohammed after the team’s 1-0 victory over Tanzania in Uyo. The İstanbul Başakşehir FK of Turkey player, who is being tipped to surpass Joseph Yobo’s 100 caps for Nigeria, spoke to me recently about his love for his mum (Hajiya Maryam Shehu) and why he prefers watching movies to going out with friends.
Let’s start with your mum, I can see you have her pictures all around, how would you describe her and her influence on you?
Well, let me start by saying, I have the best mum in the world and I mean it. The way she has taken care of me and my siblings since we were little has been nothing but amazing. She’s very hardworking, generous and disciplined as well. We grew up in a modest home and even though we were not rich, mum never let us feel down.
Like most African mums, she was a disciplinarian which helped keep me on the straight and narrow
Alongside my dad, she tried her best to provide for us. She also taught me to always be confident and believe in myself. Like most African mums, she was a disciplinarian which helped keep me on the straight and narrow. She did this to make sure I did not go astray like many boys in our area who joined groups that derailed their potential.
So I will continue to hail, cherish and respect my mum till eternity for all she has done for me and my duty now is to give her the best life so she knows how valuable she is to me.
Now, music, you were seen with earphones before training for the recent Tanzania match in Akwa Ibom, what were you listening to?
I was listening to the Nigerian artiste Kiss Daniel’s song Laye at the time, had it on repeat and listened to it up to 50 times. The rhythm and the lyrics are just awesome. Overall my taste in music currently revolves around Nigerian musicians, from 2face, Dbanj to Davido and Wizkid.
Wizkid changed the game as far as I’m concerned. He’s Nigeria’s Justin Bieber.
I have all their songs and I choose a particular song depending on the mood I’m in.
Wizkid changed the game as far as I’m concerned. He’s Nigeria’s Justin Bieber. He came on board when there were lots of music veterans in their prime and still managed to carve a niche for himself. Now he has gone international, I’m so proud of him.
What about food, I’m sure you don’t get to eat ‘Tuwo’ and ‘Miyan Taushe’ (the most popular food in northern Nigeria) a lot in Turkey?
(Laughter) Yes I don’t get to see it a lot but whenever I come home, I make sure I make up for lost time by eating it a lot. The Tuwon Shinkafa and Taushe is one of the best gifts by our ancestors to us in Arewa (northern Nigeria). It’s a food that contains everything you need: vegetable, rice and fruits.
I grew up eating it and I still enjoy it very much. Immediately after the Tanzania game, i travelled home to see my family and my mum had already prepared it for me, which was amazing.
Who were your icons and those that influenced your decision to go into football and also take up the defender position?
Well, like most African children, I can’t even recall the first time I started playing football. What I mean is that as soon as one could walk, the next thing is to start kicking a ball. I started like that from aged six or seven and also watching games on TV.
I recall some of the moments from the France 1998 FIFA World Cup as a child, a team that had all the Nigerian iconic stars: Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh and Rashidi Yekini, they all inspired me.
Those were players I grew up idolising and wanting to be like. As far as choosing to be a defender goes, I have always had a knack of stopping attacking plays whenever we were playing on the streets. Spectators would say ‘Musa you’ll make a good defender’. It started like that and by the time I was called up for the U-17 team, I had already established myself as a good defender.
How would you describe your taste in fashion?
To be honest, I don’t have a particular fashion taste. Maybe in the future I’ll develop a taste for something specific, but for now, I just go for whatever draws my attention, in terms of wears, perfumes etc.
Tell us about your social life in Istanbul which is known as a vibrant city?
I have always preferred indoors. I’m not the outdoors type which means I have nothing to tell you (laughs). Usually after matches or training sessions, I go back home and watch a movie, eat and sleep. Sometimes I entertain teammates at my place, but that’s about it.
It’s always a pleasure to be likened to top players or legendary figures that have performed at the highest level
You have been likened to former defender and Eagles most capped player of all time, Joseph Yobo. Do you see yourself eclipsing his 101 caps for Nigeria?
It’s always a pleasure to be likened to top players or legendary figures that have performed at the highest level because it means you’re getting somewhere.
Personally, I don’t like setting targets, just like to take each game at a time because in football a lot can change quickly. A new manager might come tomorrow and decide you’re not his type but I’ll continue to work hard and whenever I’m called upon will give my best for Nigeria.
Tell us something we don’t know about new Eagles technical adviser Gernot Rohr?
The fact that he’s a very jovial person. You see him on TV and in pictures and it might seem as if he doesn’t smile at all but working closely with him, you’ll come to realise that he’s funny and likes to tease his players. This is a good thing and relaxes the players.
After winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013, many expected your group to take the world by storm at last year’s U-20 Mundial in New Zealand but you lost to Germany at the round of 16. What went wrong?
I captained both the Golden Eaglets (U-17) and the Flying Eagles (U-20) and all I can say is that it wasn’t meant to be in New Zealand. That 2015 team under Coach Manu Garba had immense potential but unfortunately we couldn’t rule the world in that category as we did with the U-17.
It was painful at the time because we were carrying the hopes of not only Nigerians but many Africans as well. We couldn’t deliver, but as the saying goes in football, you win some and lose some.
Things will never always go your way. That’s what happened.