Abdul Fatawu

Fatawu: Idolising Ayew, Maresca's Guidance & Feeling At Home

Abdul Fatawu has taken no time at all to become of one of the protagonists of this extraordinary Leicester City season with his wizardry down the flanks and commitment to the badge.
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Now back in the fold after serving a three-game suspension for a red card at Coventry City – a 'painful moment' for the young Ghanian – Fatawu was at his dazzling best in Saturday's 5-0 rout of Stoke City.

Signed on loan from Sporting Lisbon in the summer, City's No.18 is a bundle of energy on the channels for Enzo Maresca's men, a direct winger with a frightening turn of pace and thrilling box of tricks. 

It's been some campaign so far for the Foxes, top of the Sky Bet Championship with 23 wins from a possible 30, roaring to a 11-point lead at the summit in their quest for Premier League promotion.

Born in Tamale, a burgeoning city in Ghana's northern region, Abdul rose from humble beginnings to carry his country's flag at a FIFA World Cup finals before his 19th birthday.

Playing for the Black Stars, earning 15 caps, has given the gregarious wingman a rare chance to not only meet but also play alongside his childhood hero, the former Swansea City striker, André Ayew.

His first training session with the 2011 BBC African Footballer of the Year was a dream-like experience for him and served as confirmation that meeting your heroes can go well after all. 

"When I was coming up, I looked up to André," he says at the Club's Seagrave headquarters. "I liked how he was playing and how much passion he had for football.

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Abdul Fatawu

"There was some players who played in the local league and I liked them too, but Ayew was my idol. I was really watching him. It was his playing style and his personality as well.

"He was always having passion for the game. He always gave his all to the team and, at that time, I just loved him. I wanted to be like him, and now I play with him for Ghana.

"I remember the first time I went to the senior national team and, when I met him, it was a privilege. I was so happy to be on the field with him. I used to just watch him in training.

"It was so amazing to be on a field with him. It was a great feeling to meet him. The most exciting part was, when I went there, he guided me. He started to give me advice about the game and how to improve.

"He talks to you on the game and, even off the pitch, with me here, we still talk. He tells me what he would do and what, as a player, I should be doing and shouldn’t be doing."

Fatawu climbed the levels in his home country, through the Tamale Utrecht Academy, before starring for the likes of Steadfast FC and Dreams FC, later earning a precious chance to move to Europe in 2022.

"Since I was eight years-old, I started loving football," he explains. "I just wanted to play football. The community we were living with, there were so many people who loved football.

I used to get scared of some defenders in the league because they would kick you! I’m so lucky because I always met good coaches who let me play.

Abdul Fatawu

"The academy organised a small tournament in the community and I played in that. I was playing for my area. I was always playing with my friends and sometimes we went to a different place to play as well.

"I was happy. My dad used to love football. In the city where I grew up, we had a local Premier League team so he always took me to the stadiums to watch the games with him.

"I remember, sometimes if I didn’t go to training, he used to call me and talk to me. He’d say: ‘Why haven’t you gone to training?!’ It was a great time for me.

"When I joined Dreams, they were in the Ghanian Premier League. I was young and, at that time, I used to watch some players there. Now I was going to play with and against them.

"I used to get scared of some defenders in the league because they would kick you! I’m so lucky because I always met good coaches who let me play.

"They gave me more confidence and I quickly became a starter for them as well."

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Abdul Fatawu

Joining the Leões of Sporting Lisbon was a breakthrough moment for Fatawu, opening the door to UEFA Champions League football. It was a reward for the way he had turned raw talent into viable ability, but it was naturally a tough transition for the lad from Tamale, moving to the metropolis of Portugal's expansive capital city. 

"It was a great feeling to join them," he adds. "This was the moment I was waiting for, to be a professional footballer. It was a chance to go to a different place to play.

"It was a very good opportunity for me. When I went there, it was good. Sometimes the weather and other things were different, but I had a good feeling about it. It was a bit colder than I was used to.

"Coming from Ghana, it’s different. Now, being in England, I think that the weather in Portugal is okay! Sporting is somewhere that made me who I am now. They have really helped me with everything.

"It was just a good opportunity for me. I really like how I was playing. I got more opportunities to play in Champions League and Europa League, which was amazing for me.

"I played against some big clubs and it’s something big for me. Sporting gave me opportunities to be who I am now."

Last winter, Fatawu also achieved every boy's dream to play in a World Cup fixture as Ghana tackled Uruguay in the group stage in Qatar.

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Abdul Fatawu

Albeit a game to forget for the four-time African champions, it nevertheless remains a scrapbook moment which the winger will savour forever.

"Ghana against Uruguay is a big game!" he laughs. "Ghanaians take it personally, it’s serious. Years back, when they beat us, with Luis Suárez, it was crazy.

"When I was told I was playing against them, it was good feeling. It was amazing. It was a privilege to be there. Although I didn’t play often, it was a great feeling to play at the World Cup."

Abdul admits he had options last summer when Leicester secured his signature on a season-long loan deal. Maresca, though, ignited a fire in his belly. He gave him a commitment to support his development. 

"There was more teams in for me, but I felt this place was good for me," Fatawu continues. "I always want someone who can help me and tell me what to do. I still want to learn.

"All the teams were good, but how the coach speaks to you here is different. I took how he wanted to guide and help me improve in my game and that’s why I chose Leicester.

"I think Leicester can help me to grow, to improve and get mature. There are so many good coaches in my career. Most of them always helped me in whatever I did. I can’t count them.

"Enzo is one of them. He’s someone who will talk to you away from the games as well as in the games. He always wants you to do the right things, even out of football.

I feel at home already because everyone is ready to help. There are people who tell you so many things about the game.

Abdul Fatawu

"He wants you to be a good boy as well as a good footballer."

Fatawu now calls Leicester 'home', a testament to the seamless way he's settled into life in the area and warmed to the Club and its supporters.

On the affection he commands from the Blue Army, he says: "It’s amazing. I feel so good, especially when I’m in playing, getting support from the fans.

"It always gives me more energy to play. It feels amazing. I feel at home already because everyone is ready to help. There are people who tell you so many things about the game.

"How you can learn and how people help you, even when you’re not playing, or what they tell you about normal life, there are so many good people in the Club. They have helped me to settle in England.

"I feel at home because I have no problem with these kinds of things. I think this Club made it easy for me.

"When I came here, I thought it might be difficult, but with the people I have here, it’s so good for me. Living here is good. It’s going so well."

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Abdul Fatawu

Abdul has been forced to watch on from the sidelines over recent weeks after his late challenge on Jake Bidwell saw him pick up a straight red card in the M69 Derby defeat at Coventry.

A rare blemish in Leicester's stunning season to date, instead of brushing it under the carpet, City's No.18 is eager to learn from the experience and grow as a person.

"It was so painful for me," he recalls. "This was the game I wanted to win, but unfortunately I got a red card. It was so bad. I felt so disappointed, but the coach spoke to me after the game.

"He said: ‘There are so many things that happen in football and you just have to learn’. I want to learn and I like it when people tell me about my mistakes and how I need to correct something.

"I’ll be so much stronger and more effective now I’m back because I have to achieve what we have fought for now. We want to end this season on top of the table.

"I’m coming back with full energy and to help the team get the achievement we want."

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