Midfielder, Haruna Lukman, captained the Golden Eaglets to a third triumph at the U-17 World Cup in 2007. The 29-year-old, who also featured at the 2009 U-20 World Cup and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa tells, KELVIN EKERETE about his career
You were once regarded as the perfect replacement for legend Austin Okocha but your career went down after a flash of brilliance, what really happened?
In life, things just happen. You get carried away by so many things and it affects your life. There is the place of bad management, poor structure; all these things affected me and it’s also affecting some other footballers, not just me alone. But with the right structure and good management, I’m sure one will be playing at the top level. With the way things are at the moment, I just want to say I’m grateful to God for everything. It has not been easy; the road has been very tough for me, not being active and being out of the game for over a year. The young ones I left behind are growing and doing well, so it gives me joy and that is the most important thing for me right now. I hope that this year (2020) will be a great one for me.
Some feel arrogance contributed to your decline as a footballer. How true is this?
People say I am proud, but I’m not proud. It’s just what people say. This is who I am. People say bad and negative things about me just to bring me down, but that’s not me. (Gennaro) Gattuso was a very stubborn player on the field but outside the field, people still respect him. Nigerians don’t value what they have. If people say I’m proud, fine. I am because I worked really hard for what I achieved. If I am broke, people will say I don’t have anything but I worked hard for what I have, so I have to just raise my ego a little bit. I can’t just answer everybody. But I don’t think I am a proud or an arrogant person.
You played for one of Europe’s big sides, Monaco. How would you rate your time at the French giants?
I have to give kudos to Monaco for giving me the opportunity to be a member of their family for over four years. Spending time with them was one of the best moments of my career. They made me who I am today because they took me from the youth team straight to the main team and I am happy I left a lasting legacy there. I never had issues with them. If I had my way, I’d play for them.
What was it like when you had no club and money wasn’t coming in?
(Cuts in) Man, things were very hard for me. I was able to survive the hard times because I didn’t waste all my funds when I was playing actively. I invested well and those investments helped me when I didn’t have anything. That is why I can still come out and walk on the streets and people respect me because I didn’t joke with my finances while I was playing. I tried to invest as much as I could because no one could tell what would happen the next day.
If you could turn back the hands of time, what would you have done differently?
I don’t want to look back at some of the bad decisions I made. Now, I just want to look to the future. Everything will change for me structure wise, I am 29 years old now and I hope I can still play constant football for another two or three years before hanging my boots. I am certain that with a better structure and a better team, I think everything is going to be good this time around. There won’t be any bad attitude from me or my management, so everything is going to be good.
What would you describe as your biggest career achievement?
Definitely it’s playing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. That was the breakthrough for me. Since featuring at that competition, my life changed. Not so long after the World Cup, I signed for Dynamo Kyiv. Playing at the 2010 World Cup made me.
Would you say you accomplished what you set out to become as a footballer?
It is not yet over for me. I’m not yet done with football, but as a footballer and a young player, since 2007 till now, I will say I have done a lot. I have served, I have given my best to the country, I have won trophies, but I’m still not satisfied until I hang my boots, that’s when I’ll be able to rate my career. I’m not done yet.
What would you do when you quit football?
I don’t want to become a coach. I’ll probably become a consultant. That is far better compared to coaching because I can easily spot quality players, and with my experience, I can bring up good talented players.
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