When the season started you were playing, then you dropped down the pecking order. What happened?
If you are a master, someone is a Maestro
Mubarak Wakaso opens up to Michael Oti Adjei about his season, meeting Zidane, life in Spain and why despite all the European dominance, La Liga trails the English Premier League in his preferred leagues.
It was all about the new manager. I was playing before he came but I was suspended for his first game against Villareal. Afterwards he felt the team he used had proven him right so he wanted to stick to that team. I had to dig deep to get my place back and I am glad that I did and utilised it.
What is it with you and Spanish football? You went there young and you are back there after spells in Russia and Scotland.
I can say that Spanish football is like Ghana league for me because Ghana was where I started and Spain was my first professional competition so I am very used to La Liga.
Rubin Karzan in Russia didn’t go so well. Why?
I will say culture, the weather there, the time and everything was different. Then the man who took me there was sacked so I had to face a lot of difficulties but my first season was not bad because I had opportunity to play some games both Russian League and Europa League games. My second season wasn’t going well hence the decision to head to Russia.
You seem to have thrive a lot more at club level than national level.
In football a lot of things come into play. In Russia I didn’t know the language, I was unfamiliar with people and the weather and generally struggled. Here it is home. I know the players, they know me, we grew up togeter and I am used to the conditions. It enhances your performance.
It also means that I play my heart out and work hard for the nation. It doesn’t mean I don’t do that for the my club but here the conditions are just right.
What has been your best time for Ghana you think?
For me my best tournament will be the last nation’s cup although I scored important goals in 2013 but I did not like the way the performance was. The year 2015 was perfect for me and the whole team but recently own was perfect for me and the whole team.
What does it feel like for the boy from Tamale to get on the pitch with the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?
Sometimes I pinch myself and ask if this is real, if this is a dream but I know it is also part of life. You progress, you build on your hard work and I feel I am benefitting from that. But I also know it is a long road ahead so I want to focus on what is ahead. I can’t get on the pitch with those players and get excited because I would lose focus. It has to be all about the job and nothing more.
You seemed particularly thrilled to meet Zinadine Zidane recently
Yes I was because it is one of those things I have really been looking forward to since I went to Spain. I was playing in the second tier when he was at Real Madrid and it was only three years after he retired that I graduated up to La Liga.
Seeing him felt really good because he was a great player, someone I really admire. He was very nice, warn and open too. It felt really good.
It is interesting that you would get mocked in Tamale and followed around a lot on your Monday Stars rounds but you are here gushing about another player
It only shows the different dymanics in life and why we must appreciate our situation. In life even if you are old someone is older than you so is like that. If you are a master someone is a maestro. So if am Wakaso, I am not up to Ronaldo’s level because what he has achieved, I haven’t achieve that. There are also some guys who want to achieve what I have also achieved. That is life.
It took a while before you broke into the national team considering how quickly some of your other colleagues got in
Seriously, if I will tell you the truth my mind was not on the national team because I was getting playing time in Obuasi and I was okay with that. I was getting everything at AshantiGold.
It was when I arrived in Spain that the national team became even more important because in Europe, your respect shoots up if you are an international. Once you get call up, you earn a lot of respect.
Given how important the national team is then, how do you react to those who accuse Black Stars players of playing only for the money and not love of country?
Between the players we know what we are doing and we also know that if you work you must earn for it no matter how small. That is why we call something bonus. You must get a feeling that the work you do is beneficial so if they put five dollars that if you win this what you will take we will play the way we play. We don’t play for money but the most important thing is to make ourselves comfortable and make the nation proud. That is all we ask for.
This weekend is AFCON qualifying time. Are you guys tired of this already given how many times you qualify for it?
We are not tired because we haven’t achieve what we want and our achievement is to get the trophy (African Cup of Nations) home. It is a major talking point in camp. We are not even thinking about the qualifiers, we are thinking about the tournament. Even the head coach said we have a long way and that our target is to bring something to show Ghanaians this is our work. That is what he tells us everyday before training.
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