Mubarak Wakasso has told 3FM 92.7 that there is no greater honour for a Ghanaian player based in Europe than playing for the Black Stars and is adamant they play for love of country, not money.
The former AshantiGold man has been Ghana’s standout player in the last year with goals, energy and generally a positive approach when he has pulled on the Black Stars shirt.
He has stuck into tackles, struck long ranger efforts and scored sublime free kicks. And all that at a time when he has not neccesarily been blazing it at club level.
The strange thing is that Wakaso himself didn’t particularly warm to the Black Stars early. After breaking through at the national U-17 level in 2005, Wakaso returned to Ghana with AshantiGold and simply got on with his football. In his mind he had it all; promising career, good opportunities and little care.
That was until he arrived in Spain for the next phase of his career. “Seriously, if I will tell you the truth my mind was not on the national team because I was getting playing time in my team and I was like okay with the team, Ashanti Gold. I was getting everything I wanted”, he told 3FM 92.7 .
“When I got to Elche in Spain, I was like this is the time to join the national team because if you are in Europe they always give respect to people who those who get chance to participate in their national teams. That was the moment I knew I needed to get my national team chance.”
Wakasso’s admission that national team call ups adds to the value of players in Europe would be music to many ears especially in the midst of the debate about how much they must earn when playing for Ghana. So where does he stand on that debate? He effectively turns that answer into a collective one, providing a passionate debate of what the players feel is their right to earn when they pull on the national jersey.
“Between the players we know what we are doing and we also know that if you work, you must get the feeling that you benefited something from it,” Wakasso says. “That is why there is something called bonus. Even if they put five dollars up and said win and take we would. We don’t play because of the money but the most important thing is that we are comfortable and that we make the nation proud in return.”
A bit like the way he can easily switch from a central midfield position to out wide on the pitch, Wakasso switches mode from very serious look to an almost child-like smile when we discuss his time in Spain and his recent meeting with Real Madrid’s champions league winning coach Zinedine Zidane.
When Las Palmas played Real Madrid last season, Wakasso watched from the stands because he was suspended but moment the game was done he was in the locker room area asking for a photo with Zidane.
“When I went to Spain for the first time, I was like in a hurry to play in La Liga so I can get in touch with him but unfortunately I did not get the chance. It was three years after he had stopped playing that I got the opportunity to join the La Liga team so I had never seen him before. That was my first time and I was delighted because I really like him as a footballer. And he is a nice person too. He was open and really nice. It was an absolute pleasure meeting him.”
When Wakaso is reminded that there would be many in his native Tamale, Accra who would react in awe at seeing him, he responds with a suggestion that football thrives on levels. And he is no doubt which level he is.
“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 it is always like that. So if I am Wakaso am not up to Ronaldo’s level because what he has achieved, I haven’t achieve that. Maybe there are some guys who also want to achieve what I have also achieved but there are also people who I see play and think wow.”
Wakaso is honest enough to admit that there are days when he has to pinch himself on the pitch in Spain and remind himself that it is not all a dream.
“Sometimes I ask myself such questions but I also know that it is part of life because you progress. When I get on the pitch alongside players like Messi and Ronaldo, I like to think my hard work has gotten me there. I can’t let things like that distract me especially when there is a job to be done because there is a long road ahead.”
There are two destinations that he hopes that road would lead to. First he hopes to play in the English Premier League soon and then become an African champion. He has been obssesing about both especially the Nations Cup triumph.
“We are not even thinking about the qualifiers”, he says about the Nations Cup. We are thinking about the tournament, that is what we are preparing for. Even the head coach said we have a long way and that our target is to bring home a major trophy to show for all the years of hardwork. It is his message to us everyday before we start training.”
By 3fm Sports|Ghana