It’s impossible to be John Zaki but I’ve his power and speed
Abia Warriors bulky striker, Godwin Iorbee Zaki has told SHOT! that it is impossible to be exactly like his more famous elder brother, John Zaki but he is ready to take the Nigerian League by storm because he possesses some of his brother’s qualities such
What does scoring on your debut against a highly rated team like Enugu Rangers mean to you? I lack words to express my happiness and satisfaction. For me to score on my debut in the Nigeria Professional Football League against the defending champions was no doubt a momentous moment for me. Moreover, the goal was the match winner and that made it so special for me and the team.
Would you say it is a sign of good things to come for you in the league?
Of course yes, don’t forget that I followed up with another goal against Katsina United when we played them in our second match of the season. I am actually motivated to build on that performance in my first match. If I continue to get the mandate of my coaches to play, I hope to keep scoring goals to help the club achieve its ambition.
Have you set any goals target for yourself ?
I know that there are so many good strikers in the league but if God has anointed me to emerge the highest goal scorer, nobody will beat me to it. So if I keep getting playing time, I will use the experience I gained playing abroad to see, if I can emerge the highest goal scorer in the league.
Last season, Godwin Obaje scored 18 goals to emerge the highest goal scorer. Do you see any striker surpassing his performance this season?
Of course yes. I want to say there are strikers who can score as many as 30 goals if given the enabling environment. With good officiating, I tell you I can score as many as 30 goals. I am not the only person who has what it takes to score the goals. There are so many strikers in the league with the abilities to score up to 30 goals this season.
You have just mentioned officiating so could you go ahead and assess officiating in the Nigeria Professional Football League?
If you ask for my candid assessment of officiating in the league, I will say we still have a long way to go. It is not like what we have in Europe. In European football, referees allow matches to go fifty-fifty. There is nothing like home advantage. However, in the Nigerian league, there are still traces of the wrong home advantage. I can say there are good referees in the league but some are kill joy. They make questionable calls and that make things difficult for clubs.
With the performance of Abia Warriors so far, would you say your team is good enough to fight for the title?
I want to say that every team in the world is beatable. Even teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid lose matches. So I can say there are prospects for Abia Warriors to win the league but we must continue to work hard. All we ask for is a level playing field. By level playing field, I am talking about fair officiating like the one we got against Rangers in Enugu.
How did you get into Abia Warriors?
Actually I was training with Delta Force FC and I was about to sign for them but when we played a friendly match against Abia Warriors, I did very well and they picked interest in me. Abia Warriors then invited me over and when I came, I impressed in training and that was how I got registered for the season.
From all indications, this is your first season in the Nigeria Professional Football League. Why did it take you this long?
Actually, I played in the league but in the lower division with First Bank of Lagos from where I travelled out. And even before I travelled, I trained for several months with some top Nigeria Professional Football League clubs like Sunshine Stars and Lobi Stars. I did six months in Sunshine Stars and four months in Lobi Stars. Unfortunately, none of the clubs signed me.
Why weren’t you discouraged even when the NPFL clubs failed to give you the breakthrough you needed very much?
It is hard for me to be frustrated by anything. My life philosophy is God’s time is the best. So I always wait on God for everything I want to do in life. As a matter of fact, even as the clubs did not register me, they paid me some allowances to keep me going. So I was not frustrated by anything. They know better why I was not registered.
You did say from First Bank FC Lagos, you travelled aboard. Could you share your experience with other Nigerians?
In 2012, I travelled to Norway where I had two weeks trials. From there I moved to play briefly in Finland in 2013, then I moved to Malta and from Malta I played briefly in Cyprus before coming back to Nigeria. My contract was due and I was running out of visa. Although I had another offer in Cyprus, I was not satisfied with the financial commitment of the club and decided to take a break. I am still in touch with my agent who is working out something. Moreover, one or two clubs are also monitoring my performance. So I can say going back to Europe is a matter of time.
Your elder brother John Zaki made a mark playing for the once dreaded BCC Lions and the Super Eagles. How ready are you to step into his big shoes?
I do not intend to undermine my abilities but I want to be honest with myself. Stepping into my brother’s shoes is not going to be an easy task but I am going to do my best to maintain the legacies he left in Nigerian football. I cannot be like him but I think I possess some of the qualities that made him a great player in his days. So I want to repeat here that its impossible to be John Zaki but Nigerians will see at least 99% of him in me.
What are your brother’s qualities that you think you possess?
When I was younger, I watched some of his tapes. His dribbling skills, ability to score goals, his shoots, and speed and I think I have got these loaded in me. I have learnt a lot from him and I hope to combine that with things I watch great players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez do to also become a great striker in future.
How much support did you enjoy from your elder brother when you started your football career?
He definitely inspired me to play football. He gave me every necessary support and even now he has not stopped supporting me to carry on the family name. Apart from advices, he also gave me playing shoes and jerseys. As a young player, I was highly motivated.
Do you see yourself representing Nigeria in the near future?
That is every player’s dream and if I am given the opportunity, why not? I will be happy to play for Nigeria just the way my elder brother did in his time. I will continue to work hard and if God says yes, nobody will say no. I know that Nigeria is blessed with so many good strikers but if I am consistent in scoring goals, I am sure I will be considered. I want to be recognised as a good scorer.
Are you therefore hoping to be part of the next CHAN Eagles?
If I will still be in the NPFL, that will be my desire. I have to start from somewhere to get into the main Super Eagles. The coach in charge of the team is watching the league so I want my goals to speak for me. What are your hobbies? My hobby is cooking. If I were not playing football, I would have been a good chef. I like serving people. Let me just say apart from playing football, I am a chef. I feel highly fulfilled when people enjoy my meals.
Why did you choose to play football?
I didn’t choose football because I have an elder brother who made a name playing the game. I chose football because God has given me the talent. My passion for football is so great that when I started as a kid, I would refuse to come home and eat food. Most times, I would return home to discover that there was no food left for me and I would go to sleep without food. I never gave up on my passion. Five times I prayed to God to show me what he wants me to do in life and five times, He showed me football.
Do you have any regret playing football?
I do not have a single regret. I cannot even quantify what football has done for me. I have learnt a lot of things through the game. Football has taught me the true meaning of life. It has taught me about the ups and downs in life and how to be patient in all situations. In addition, I have travelled a lot already and it is said travelling is part of education. So football has educated me in so many ways. I am yet to make money in football but I am trusting God that money will also come.
Abia Warriors striker, Godwin Zaki shoots at goal in the match against Katsina United at the Umuahia township stadium