I was over joyed when I spoke to Mohammed Lawal (former U23 international) about some Kaduna born kid (well, in case you want to know, me and Lawal grew up around Kaduna axis and played football there)
Apparently 'Laweelo' knew him quite well and was able to set up this interview, a first by any Nigerian website since Umar moved to Italy.
I was surprised how shy and unassuming he was knowing fully well how Croc City cats act ( yeah, that's what Kaduna folks are called.)
The interview was done by me originally for supersport.com (read it here) but reproduced on my blog for your consumption
All photos are credited to the player. Take a read
A tall lanky fellow strides the fields of the AC Spezia youth training ground on a fine Saturday morning, looking at the sky and wondering if his homeland woke up to the same hazy but tranquil weather.
Not that he expected it to be same. Kaduna, in Northern Nigeria is quite hot and humid around this time of the year, unlike the hazy and bitter cold winds of Northern Italy.
Sadiq Umar has come a long way in a short space of time in his fledgling career. Plucked from the dusty streets of Kaduna by AC Spezia via the Future of Africa Academy and the Football College Abuja.
The 18-year-old is one of most exciting prospects in the Italian Primavera A league, scoring 14 goals in 18 appearances this season in all competitions as he continues to build up his reputation as a future star for Spezia and Nigeria.
Supersport.com caught with Umar who spoke to us about his progress in Italy and his aspirations for first team football in the Italian top flight.
Supersport.com: Nice having you speak to us, can you tell us more about yourself?
Umar: I'm Sadiq Umar. A striker with AC Spezia in Italy. I started playing football when I was very little on the streets of Kaduna. My interest in the game increased as I grew up.
My father Umar Abubakar popularly known as ‘Mega’ was a footballer, he was a striker for Ranchers Bees back then. He was a major influence in making me choose football as a career.
Supersport.com: How did you start playing football?
Umar: Like I said, I started in the streets of Kaduna and I was also playing in school. I later join the Future of Africa football Academy and from there I joined the Football College in Abuja. I was scouted from there and I’m now in Italy with Spezia.
Supersport.com: How as the transition like for a young lad like you?
Umar: It was tough because it was my first time in Europe. It wasn't easy as I had to adapt to a lot of things that I wasn't used to both in terms of the playing part and the life in general, but gradually I started getting used to it and things improved as went by. It was also a plus having my Nigerian brother with me here (Nura Abdullahi, who also plays for Spezia). It wasn't easy, but I really thank God that I can now say I’ve settled in nicely.
Supersport.com: So how do you think playing to Europe has improved you as a person and as a footballer?
Umar: Since moving to Europe, I can say that my game has improved tremendously, both physically and technically. I can say I'm more aware of my role now as a striker more than ever and you are aware that Italian football is very tactical. Defensively they are tight which makes it difficult for any striker. I'm very grateful to Almighty Allah for giving me the opportunity to start my career in Italy because I believe I can handle defenders in any other league in Europe now after having this experience.
Supersport.com: A lot of people say you play like Nigeria legend Nwankwo Kanu because of your tall languid frame and style, how do you feel about that?
Umar: I feel honoured to be compared to such a legend and a great African football ambassador who also at one time in his career played in Italy. I hope and pray to work hard and achieve as much as he did or surpass what he did. I loved watching him play when I was a kid and everyday I work hard on my game to be the best. He is my role model.
Supersport.com: Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
Umar: Insha Allah in the next five years I hope to be on top of my game playing for one of the best clubs in Europe and be the best in Africa. I’ll work hard and make sure I achieve my goals of being the best. I hope to be one of the best African players to ever play in Europe and Insha Allah I will be the second African to be win the Ballon d’ Or after George Weah.
Supersport.com: That’s a very solid statement from a young player.
Umar: I know it is, but with God, everything is possible. On my part, I’m willing to work hard and go the extra mile to make it happen. Insha Allah it will happen.
Supersport.com: You've scored an incredible 14 goals in 18 matches in all competitions, 13 in the Primavera. What is your secret?
Umar: There is no secret. It’s the duty of a striker to score and create goals and like I said earlier I have now understood my role as a striker more. I always try to get myself into goalscoring positions. I enjoy scoring goals right from when I was very little and I always work hard to perfect my finishing ability. Goalscoring is the most important thing for me whenever I in the field training or matches. I hope to keep scoring goals for as long as my career last by the special grace of Allah.
Supersport.com: Do you have any national team aspirations?
Umar: Every serious footballer will always have the ambition of representing his country and I’m no exception. I know that at the right time my chance will come. Nigeria is blessed with a lot of talent and all of us can't be in the team at the same time. I will keep working hard on my game and keep improving, I’m sure then my chance will come and I’ll seize it with both hands.
Supersport.com: Thank you for speaking with us.
Umar: It’s a pleasure, please keep up the good work.