Sadiq Umar, the big Partizan Belgrade striker on loan from Roma, tells SOLAPE LAWAL-SOLARIN how football took him away from the streets of Kaduna, his love for rapper Tupac, family and more in this interview
What is life as a footballer like?
Well, we are all humans. There is no big deal being a footballer as I believe it’s just a profession. You know,something like a career.Anybody can be a footballer, it’s just a matter of choice, and if you want it, you go for it.
Many people see footballers as people with flashy lifestyle. How do you view yourself as such?
I am just Sadiq. I can’t talk much about the flashy lifestyle because it is an individual thing. We can’t generalise but, for me, I’m just Sadiq. I like to be humble and that is it.
Does that explain the picture of late American rapper, Tupac, on your WhatsApp profile?
Well I can say yes because beyond the rap songs he did, you’ll see that he was somehow realistic and impactful with his songs. Tupac kind of influenced me, his lyrics, his activism based on his ghetto background showed the other side of him. I just like him because of what he stood for. And besides, I always reflect on my past, the humble background I came from. And that seems to resonate with me and what Tupac songs stand for at times.
You played for Glasgow Rangers, Bologna, Roma but some forget your stint with Torino. Can you tell us your experience with the Grenata?
It was a good experience despite the fact it was short-lived but I enjoyed it. Torino is a nice place.
Which Grenata player really impacted on you during your stay?
It will be Andrea Bellotti of course. I was impressed with his work rate and seriousness. You need to see this guy during training sessions; he was so dedicated and committed. He is a hard worker and that really impressed me.
Roma last won Serie A in 2001. Do you think the Gialorossi can end their title drought soon?
It will be difficult but this is football, anything can happen. Roma are always prepared, it’s just that the Serie A is very tough. I can only wish them the best.
How did you feel after making your first Roma appearance?
It was like a dream come true and it wasn’t easy. Playing for Roma as a young lad is not easy, especially if you’re not an Italian. But it was a great experience playing at the Stadio Olympico.
What is your impression of Serie A?
Serie A is the toughest league as far as I’m concerned. From the tactics to organisation, coaches go the extra mile to give details. It is no joke. Serie A is tough I must confess.
Serie A has been on the spotlight for racism. Romelu Lukaku, BlaiseMatuidi, MoiseKean have all been victims of racist chants. Did you experience such in Italy?
Seriously, I haven’t experienced it. I don’t know, but I can say I haven’t experienced such from the fans. Even in Serbia with Partizan, I have not been treated in a bad way.
Are you married?
Yes, I am happily married to an Italian, her name is Judinna and we have a beautiful baby girl called Aisha.
How do you balance your life as a father and a footballer?
On the pitch I’m a footballer, off it, I’m a dad. And I try as much as possible to be there for my daughter and my wife if I’m not playing football. I can only be the best father by being there for her, it’s something I have handled very well and I’m happy with it.
Does your wife know how to cook Nigerian dishes?
I am not really the food type. I eat a lot of pastas. You know pastas are Italian, so I eat much of pasta then maybe noodle.
Who is your favourite Nigerian musician?
I like Wizkid, Davido is cool but, I prefer Wizkid.
You made mention of your humble background. If you didn’t play football, what would you have done?
Well, football gave me a life. It gave me a purpose and a direction. I thank God for where I am today, looking back at early years in Kaduna, and the friends I rolled with, maybe, just maybe I might have become a street boy.But, football gave me hope. I still connect with my friends whenever I am in Nigeria. I am lucky, I thank God but, whenever I’m in Nigeria I make sure I see them.