In our Star Check Series, we caught up with Qatari based Anthony Bassey. He started his playing career with the famous Greater Tomorrow Academy in Akwa Ibom State, discovered by foreign scouts attached to Aspire International at a very young age and taken to Qatar. He is an excellent ball jogger with incredible dribbling skills in the mould of Jay-Jay Okocha. Played for Eupen in Belgium Pro League before returning to Qatar. Excerpt:
Hello Anthony Bassey, how is Qatar?
My brother, I’m fine thank you.
How is the COVID-19 pandemic in Qatar?
The cases are increasing everyday here, so we are still under lockdown, but hopefully we will be back to training soon.
Has the authorities given any date for league resumption in Qatar?
Not really, but they have held series of meetings with discussions on a possible camping and testing of all players and officials for two weeks, if it goes well then the league will resume.
How have you been maintaining physical fitness during this lockdown?
I’m following the fitness programs from my coaches.
Was the league in progress before the COVID-19 pandemic set in?
Yeah, the league was in progress before the pandemic started, and we’re in good position on the table with four matches to the end of the season.
How do you feel about the COVID-19 cases in Nigeria?
I’m scared for my family, for my loved ones and for everybody; I pray that everything returns to normal soon.
Away from the COVID-19 pandemic, briefly, tell us how you were discovered by Aspire scouts?
I grew up in Uyo and played for Greater Tomorrow Sports Academy under Coach Emmanuel Ntuk. In 2008 Aspire discovered me, I must say I never really expected to be picked that day considering the fact that we had a lot of quality players at Greater Tomorrow Academy back then, but as God would have it, I was discovered.
Tell us about your current team?
My current club is Al Markhiyah, I moved from Al Wakrah club to Al Markhiyah club this season and I have contract till 2021, we have four matches until the end of the season.
You have always been using the jersey number 10 in almost every club you’ve played, any special inspiration behind this?
Yeah! When I came back to Qatar from Belgium, the club asked if I had any special requests and I asked for the jersey number 10 and this is motivated by the love I have for Ronaldinho. I remember there was a time I’d always wished to play like him and Jay Jay Okocha, so for me the jersey number 10 is special.
Who is the toughest player you’ve played against?
I think I’ve faced Bayern Munich then with strong players like Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben but for me the toughest is Frank Ribery because he is intelligent and fast.
How do you cope with the language difference in Qatar?
I was here with Aspire for some years before leaving for Belgium, language is really not a problem because I understand the basics, the only differences for me was the style of play and systems in the league here, I had to study it and adapt to it.
What’s the most defining moment of your career thus far?
I would say winning titles with my clubs, and attracting attention from top side like Barcelona B, Standard Liege, etc plus signing a contract with Nike.
Do you have any peculiar challenges as regards playing in Qatar?
Not really, except that the expectations from the fans and fellow teammates is massive, they expect me to do a whole lot to help the team in games, so as a professional I get well prepared and last season I won a title plus an MVP award, this is evidence that I’ve adapted to everything here.
What message do you have for those youngsters back home in Africa, who are interested in playing football professionally?
I would advise them to be hardworking and focused in training, even when it’s not going well and it seems nothing is working, just keep believing and don’t give up. Do your best at all times because you never can tell who is watching.
Thanks for your time Anthony Bassey, stay safe.
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