PREMIUM TIMES had a chance encounter with Nigerian international football star, Lukman Haruna, in Lagos. In the chat, the player opened up about his humble beginnings, why he is not cut out for the flamboyant life style which most footballers are known for, and why he is yet to sign with another club.
PT: Tell us about your foray into football?
Lukman: I started playing football from the ghetto. I was raised in the Ojodu area of Lagos and that is where my career unofficially began. I played on the streets of Ojodu and most people knew me in my neighborhood at the time. Life was not easy for us. For my family, and things were very rough for us back then. I tried my best to work hard to achieve what I have today. I thank God things are very different for me now.
PT: Was it the hardship that pushed you into playing football or were you drawn to football because of passion?
Lukman: My father was a footballer and a coach, though he did not play in the top flight of football clubs. He had seven children, six boys and one girl. Unfortunately none of his children wanted to play football, so I decided to play and follow my dad’s footstep. I currently bear the burden of my family, as I’m more or less the breadwinner.
PT: Was your dad supportive of your decision to play football?
Lukman: My dad supported me a lot and I recall that he took me to buy my first football shoes at the popular Lagos second-hand market, Katangwar. He was literally begging the man to sell the shoes for N5, 500 because we only had N6, 000 on us and we needed to leave some change for transport fare to go home. Thankfully, the seller agreed, as he was glad my dad was supporting my dream. My dad’s support spurred me to push harder in achieving my dream of being a professional footballer. My mother used to beat me back then because she wanted me to go to school but my dad wanted one his children to start and finish what he could not achieve in football. After every beating from my mum, my dad would encourage me not to give up on my dreams. He reminded me of our situation at the time and why I should push harder to make something out of my football career.
PT: Most of your colleagues are hardly spotted in public. What are you currently doing in the country?
Lukman: I won’t lie to you; right now I am a free player. I am a free agent right now. A free agent is a player who is looking for a new team. I finished with one team, I am done with them and now I am waiting to be signed on with a new club.
PT: Do you have your eyes on a particular club?
Lukman: I am not looking to get signed on with a big club because it is better to start from somewhere. I started from somewhere and I am where I am right now, I am looking for a team to start up again. But if God says a big team will come for me, why not?
PT: Minutes before this interview you hinted that a footballer’s routine involves training every day. How do you remain in tip-top condition as a footballer that isn’t currently signed on with a club?
Lukman : As a footballer you have to train every day even if you are on a break. I gym on Saturdays and rest on Sundays. I have to keep my body in good form so I train regularly.
PT: Most footballers leave a jet set lifestyle. Are you any different?
Lukman : I don’t think I have any style. Because we work hard for the money we spend. Right now I do what I want. I work hard, so I deserve to live the kind of life I want. Some footballers lead very extravagant lifestyles but I am different. I am just a normal guy. I love my chains. I love earrings. I love jewelries. I have a lot of them in my wardrobe. Yes they are expensive. I work so hard so I deserve to buy something good for myself.
PT : But I spot tattoos on your skin, spiky hairstyle, jewelry and earrings and yet you say you don’t have style?
Lukman: These are just things that I love. I don’t copy anybody. I just do what I want. The only person whose fashion sense I admire is the Congolese singing sensation, Fally Ipupa. I love his style. His combination is superb. He combines colours, which you ordinarily may not know can go together. I have been keeping my beards from the beginning of my career. That is like 13 years ago. Then it was not this much. As you grow and things change, you change with the flow. I allowed the beard to grow more because I wanted another look.
PT: How often do you watch football matches?
Lukman : I don’t watch football often. Whenever I am back in Europe, I won’t have the time for TV because I will be working. The little time I have I may dedicate it to making phone calls or to rest. I don’t have time to watch football because I am a footballer. Sometimes I watch a Real Madrid game because of Christiano Ronaldo. I am not a striker but I love to watch him. I am a defensive midfielder. I am an avid Arsenal and Real Madrid fan.
PT: Do you watch your games?
Lukman : Yes I do. I watch my highlights. I watch to learn from my mistakes.
PT: What else are you passionate about aside from football?
Lukman :I love to watch movies and I love music too. I was once a musician but I dropped it for football.
PT: Did you almost become a musician?
Lukman : Yes I believe that I would have ended up as a musician if I wasn’t a footballer. Right now I think I have lost the talent in music. I am multi-talented. I can do comedy. Back then when I was in school, I was more or the less the jester of the class. At that same time, I was also a member of my school’s football team. But right now I cannot harness my comedy and singing talents because football takes too much of my time.
PT: Most footballers are known to spend a fortune in the clubs?
Lukman: I club sometimes. When you have too much money, you do what you want with it. But I come from a family with a very strong background. I look back and remember when I had nothing and you expect me to just blow all the money I have worked hard for in a club? That is not the right thing for me to do. Football is not a lifetime career. So I prefer to invest the money I have. May be when I have about 15 houses then I can do whatever I want. I club when I receive some kind of many zeros in my account. I am a very careful spender. People are different and so am I. I can go to a club and decide to spend N500, 000 and another person may decide to spend N2 million. Some are moved by the number of Rozay champagnes that other people have bought and decide to outdo them; I am not that kind of person. I do my things the way I want.
PT: Are you saying that when you get signed on to a bigger club and begin to earn so much, your spending habits wont change?
Lukman: I have seen money. Nothing can change me because I know what it is to lack and live in penury. I have seen paper in the past and mistake it for money. That was how broke we were. I would not want to go back to those days. So I will always spend wisely. I have families to cater for, I have friends that need me and I have children whose schools fees I pay.
PT: When are you expected back in Europe?
Lukman: Very soon; sooner than you may think.