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I missed garri, egusi when I first arrived in Europe – Matthew

fa matthew

I started playing football at a very tender age in Nigeria, and I played for FC Hearts, El-Kanemi Warriors and Kano Pillars. I had a dream of playing at the highest level and in the summer of 2016 I started to realise my dream when I joined Norwegian first division club Lillestrom SK and after some months I helped the team win the Norwegian Cup in 2017. The following year I had a big offer from Turkey’s Osmanlispor FK, now Ankaraspor, and I joined them on a season loan but I returned back to Norway as I didn’t really enjoy my football in Turkey.

Nothing happened, it was just footballing reasons, but I’m happy where I am now at FC Zurich after a successful spell at Lillestrom.

As a midfielder, your goalscoring form was quite impressive in Norway. Twenty goals and 18 assists in 196 competitive games is quite a record for a central midfielder in six years…

(Cuts in) I played some of my best football at Lillestrom and that is not much of a surprise that the goals came in as well. I played under a coach who gave me the freedom to express myself and also join the team in attack as well. Besides, I was playing along with another Nigerian (Innocent Bonke) who was so good in his role too.

My role model is former Ivorian international Yaya Toure. I loved watching him play and I tried to adapt his style to my game. The Ivorian is considered one of the greatest Africans to grace the game, with multiple trophies won in his career, including the Premier League, LaLiga, Champions League and Africa Cup of Nations. He is also a four-time recipient of the African Footballer of The Year award. Growing up, I looked up to Yaya. I used to watch a lot of his games. I watched him at Barcelona back in the day and when he was at Manchester City, even when I became a professional footballer because I’m the type of player that invests a lot of time in football. I watch what top midfielders do on the pitch and try to emulate them but I will say Yaya Toure was the biggest influence I had. I have similar strengths like him, not just in positional play, but also in playing against the ball. In all previous positions I have played in, I have shown willingness, just like Yaya, to take on responsibility.

My experience in European football has been amazing. I started in Norway, which was like my gateway to success in football. I left for Turkey, which was more competitive, and now in Switzerland, it’s a different ball game. So far, it has been a good experience. In Europe, the facilities are there, unlike in Nigeria. So, there’s a big difference. European Leagues are more attractive and lucrative than the NPFL. So many things need to be done to ensure our league compete with other leagues globally. We need to put some things in place like good infrastructure, proper officiating and other things to make our league attractive. But it was a league that I won a title and that reminds me of the NPFL. Playing for one of the biggest teams like Kano Pillars showcased my skills to the national team and the world.

Playing for the national team was one of my best moments as a player. I was a member of the Flying Eagles team that won the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal. It was our seventh U-20 AFCON title and it was memorable achieving the feat with the likes of Musa Mohammed, Taiwo Awoniyi, Obinna Nwobodo, Bernard Bulbwa, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Ojo Olorunleke and others. I scored three goals at that tournament. After the U-20 AFCON, I made the U-20 World Cup squad to New Zealand and then I was one of the players that was drafted to the home-based Eagles under coach Oliseh. That was the turning point. I had a good tournament at the African Nations Championship in Rwanda, though we didn’t qualify from the group stage, but we showed great promise and talent. Then I joined Lillestrom and was with the Super Eagles for some AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.

Yes because I was part of the project he started and another coach came in and had other plans, but I’m still playing in a top league in Europe and I have a lot to offer the Eagles if I get another chance.

I’m a good option to this side and my wealth of experience will be a great addition if invited, but it remains the coach’s decision. I play regularly and from my position, I can create chances and score goals as well. So, in any position in midfield, I can help the team. I hope to prove my worth in the current team.

Not really, but I was bullied by some people around my neighbourhood in Oslo when I first arrived. They wanted to take advantage of me in a car park, but as a boy I refused to be threatened. We settled the issue when some people intervened. They noticed I played for one of their big teams and we became friends afterwards, but I was more aware of my environment going forward.

It was tough. No no soup at the start. It was all burger and juice, which wasn’t good for me, but I found a way around it after I located where Nigerian foods were sold. For the weather, I struggled a lot because moving from hot weather to a cold region made it very difficult for me. But thank God I adapted because I could not afford to go back home.

I would have been a businessman.

Yes they did because they realised I had the talent and passion for football at an early age. They have been proud of my achievements so far.

I met my wife when I was still playing amateur football in Kano State. She has been an inspiration to me and has followed me to everywhere I have played. We’ve been together for as much as I’ve know her and she has been very supportive in my career, she’s one person I cannot do without.