SPAL of Italy central defender, Abdulmalik Justin Owolabi-Belewu has revealed that he has a burning desire to get an invitation to the Super Eagles, because he wants to get the opportunity of making his parents proud seeing him play for Nigeria, megasportsarena.com reports.
The emergent stopper added that the strong devotion held by his parents for everything about Nigeria made him commit his international future to the three-time African champions, while in the process dumping opportunities of lining out for England and Canada, where he grew up; but he says nothing will make him regret taking that decision.
The youngster, who was born 18 years ago at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, South East London, Greenwich Borough, is a left-footed center back that is currently rising fast through the ranks at SPAL, who were only last season relegated from the top-flight Italian Serie A, and he scored on his official debut for the club’s under-19 side in 1-1 draw with Genoa last weekend.
Although he could not make the expected progress when he was invited to Nigeria’s under-17 national team, Golden Eaglets in 2019, Owolabi-Belewu disclosed that he was further motivated to pledge his international allegiance to the Eagles because he draws inspiration from the team’s former captain, Austin ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha and Everton of England midfielder, Alex Iwobi.
Dramatically, while Owolabi-Belewu had been linked with Chelsea, Sunderland and Crystal Palace of England, OGC Nice of France, AS Roma of Italy and Hertha Berlin of Germany, he opted to sign his first professional contract with SPAL, who gleefully pulled off a summer transfer for the promising London-born youngster earlier this month.
The 18-year-old budding centre back went on to reveal that he models his game after that of Real Madrid of Spain captain, Sergio Ramos, but recounted how he started his career as an attacker until he was converted to play as a central defender when he moved to Toronto FC of Canada, who compete in USA’s Major League Soccer (MLS).
He is now thinking big about his career with SPAL, for which he netted a super goal on his debut last weekend against Genoa, firing home a rebound after the initial effort was parried by the opposing goalkeeper, and Owolabi-Belewu stressed that playing for Nigeria’s senior national team is top of his mind.
Owolabi-Belewu told allnigeriasoccer.com: “I would like to represent Nigeria at the Men’s level because I want to make my parents proud by representing the country of their birthplace seeming as they have done so much for me to be where I’m at.
“I also want to choose Nigeria because players like Okocha and Iwobi have inspired me as well as the fact that I’ve grown up based off Nigerian tradition, values and culture. As for the Nigeria U17 camp, I didn’t attend because I did not feel that I was ready.
“However at the youth level I would like to try and represent England just to be tested in an environment against some of Europe’s best youngsters for example Noni Madueke, Teden Mengi, Sam Greenwood etc.
“For me, as soon as I came to SPAL I knew it was a place I wanted to be. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and when we stepped on the pitch I saw that they played a style of football that I like.
“The higher management and U19 staff have a lot of faith in me and see a lot of potential in me so that was definitely a confidence booster. Not to mention playing in Italy, one of the best countries to develop as a defender, was an opportunity I could not turn down.
“The club has a very good track record of promoting youth players to the first team, there are currently six involved and soon to be more so the club has the pathway there, it’s just up to me to put in the work to go through it.
“I started off as a striker and that for me will always be my favourite position as scoring goals is something I’ve always loved to do, even till now. However, in terms of playing football at the next level playing centre back is the best position for me.
“I try to model my game after Sergio Ramos. I used to hate him but when I became a defender I realized how special he is as a player. On the pitch he battles physically which is something I try to do but he is also very, very good on the ball. He’s also a cut above the rest mentally.”