Mubarak Wakaso is one of Ghana’s best players at the moment.
Born and bred in the Northern Regional Capital of Tamale, Mubarak Wakaso has had to recover from fierce rejection to establish himself as one of the best players under Ghana’s Israeli coach Avram Grant.
The central midfielder, who can also play in the wide areas, has 43 caps for his nation and has accompanied that with 12 goals.
Having just ended a successful loan spell with Spanish side Las Palmas where he helped them finish 12th on the table, the energetic footballer spoke to Citi Sports’ Rahman Osman about his burning desire to help Ghana end its 33-year wait for an AFCON trophy, securing a dream move to the English Premier League and his admiration for Neymar and Paul Scholes.
Rahman: These days you are one of the star players in the national team but how was growing up like for you?
Wakaso: Like everything else, it was not easy in the beginning. I had a an elder brother with whom I used to go watch RTU games and from there, I made up my mind to play football.
Rahman: Let’s move it on from there. You played for AshGold in Ghana and with time, you left for Europe. How did that happen?
Wakaso: I will have to credit Saddick Adams who is now with Berekum Chelsea. He introduced me to an agent because we played together at AshGold but he went on to play for the Black Starlets (in 2007) and later secured a move to Atletico Madrid. The agent saw me play a couple of times and decided to set up a trial for me at Elche.
When I got to Elche, they asked me to play for the junior side but I told them that I was better than playing for the junior side and would prefer to play in Ghana than play for the junior side.
So after that, I went back to my hotel room but they came after a few days to tell me that I would play in a friendly game against the first team if I got it right. Thankfully, the match went well and I performed well.
Rahman: Most home-based players will jump at the opportunity to play for the second team of a European club. Why were you reluctant to do same?
Wakaso: Well, at that time, AshGold were playing in the CAF Champions League and they were calling me so I just wanted to take my time but it all worked out and I signed the contract before returning to see out my time that year and joined Elche after that.
Rahman: So after Elche you went up and enjoyed your time at Villareal, and even Espanyol. Is it fair to say you made the wrong call by going to Russia?
Wakaso: Well, life is about improvement and I did a good job at Espanyol. As of the time, there were a lot of Spanish players with Rubin Kazan and the coach liked me and the money too was good. So yes things didn’t work when there was a change of coach but that is football. You do not get what you wish for all the time.
Rahman: Ok. So this season seems to be better than last year but what do you make of the kind of season Las Palmas has had?
Wakaso: It was an amazing season and everybody at Gran Canaria is happy. They are still getting to me and some of the fans have a fan club for me. I really wanted to stay there but the financial restrictions means it will be difficult for me to return there.
It’s really sad but I enjoyed my time there but that is life.
Rahman: There is a general perception that the current Black Stars players are selfish. Do you have anything to say about that?
Wakaso: Well, I can say one thing and that is playing for the nation is a matter of pride to every footballer and even though we play for the country, we do so for ourselves and the nation so we can never be selfish.
Rahman: Would you play for the Black Stars for free?
Wakaso: Yes I will play for this nation for free but I guess the problem has always been that when you are promised something and you are not given, like every human, you get disappointed when people promise you and do not keep their word.
But if authorities say we should play for free, I will not turn my back on the nation.
Rahman: You have been to the World Cup once and Ghana has been to the last three editions of the tournament but will you pick an AFCON trophy at the expense of another World Cup berth?
Wakaso: This is a difficult one but yes because it’s been long since we had an AFCON trophy and we have a good coach and I am very much certain that next year will be the year.
Rahman: Which player has impressed you the most this season in Europe?
Wakaso: Well for me, it’s Neymar. In that period when Messi was injured he did very well and for me, he is my best player in Europe
Rahman: Which player inspired you the most when you were growing up?
Wakaso: Just one player that caught my attention and that was Paul Scholes. I always wanted to be like him.
Rahman: These days everybody wants to play in England. Would you take up the chance to play there?
Wakaso: Yeah I am actually eyeing a move there because some of my friends and brother are always encouraging me to come so I am just keeping my fingers crossed and we will see what happens.
Rahman: Wakaso, the conversation never ends with you but any final words for your fans?
Wakaso: Well, all I can say is that they should work hard and continue to do their best in every field they find themselves.
By: Citi Sports desk/citifmonline.com/Ghana