By Ebenezer Bajela
Atama Anza Usman, a native of Nasarawa State and Eggon by tribe, is excited about the possibility of one day playing in Europe — with the English Premier League his preferred destination — and making history on the world stage like Ronaldinho, one of his idols.
The protege is a formidable athlete on the pitch. Originally an attacking midfielder with great skills, he developed into a forward with a free-reined attacking style. He entertains fans with his ability to mesmerise opponents with a sleight of foot that makes sufficient space for openings in opposing defences.
Usman is one of the great promises of Nigerian football. At just 12, the Pepsi Football Academy player has been compared to Ronaldinho because of his football similarities to the Brazilian.
“A lot of people say I play like him and share some similarities with the Brazil legend and I am happy about that,” Usman said.
“I didn’t watch him during his playing days but my coach and dad told me about him. I watch his videos and I really enjoy how he played. Always smiling when on the ball and he is great to watch.
“I only hope that one day I will be able to move to Europe to fulfil my dream of playing for the biggest clubs over there. But the dream is to play in the English Premier League and I hope that I can achieve that.”
Currently, the captain of his age group — U-12 — in Pepsi Football Academy Abuja Centre, Usman has won a lot of medals but intends to learn more before making the desired move abroad.
“I still have a lot to learn because I am just 12 years old and my coaches are doing their best to make me get better,” he told PUNCH Sports Extra.
“I want to be the best and the best way to achieve that is to stay focused and continue with my training and listen to the instructions from my coaches because they have been there for me and they want the best for me.”
While playing in Europe is one of Usman’s driving forces, the rising star added that he would love to one day be the captain of the country’s men’s senior national team.
“Apart from wanting to play in Europe, it is also my dream to play for the Super Eagles,” he said.
“I know it will take a lot of work but I can do it. And I just don’t want to play for the Eagles, I want to captain the team one day.”
The youngster was among the winning team in the UK during the Summer Football Camp of 2021 and 2022.
While he is set to be part of this year’s summer football camp/Britiana Cup in the UK, Usman is hoping to make good use of the opportunity given to him.
“It was a great experience last time and I hope this will even be better. There are nice facilities there and I hope to one day come back here and train every day with them.”
A student of Africa Community School, Abuja, Usman told PUNCH Sports Extra that he was inspired by his father, who encouraged him to play football.
He said, “My dad was the reason I chose to play football because he inspired me and has always been there.
“Unlike, many parents, he never tried to stop me and that has really helped my confidence and my development.”
Speaking to PUNCH Sports Extra, the promising star’s father, Dr Usman, said he gave the adolescent the desired support when he discovered his love for the game at a very early age.
“We noticed his fondness for football while he was just two years old and that’s why we decided to help nurture him and encourage him to play football.”
Coach Jerry Onyibe, who has monitored Usman’s progress, told PUNCH Sports Extra that the player was one of his best proteges.
“He is very talented and probably one of the best players I have mentored. He is so skillful and always focused despite his young age, he takes to correction and with the way he plays, he is way beyond his age.
“I am confident that he will develop into one of the best this country has produced and I believe he will live up to his idol, Ronaldinho. We told him about Ronaldinho and played him videos and ever since, he has picked interest in the Brazilian.”