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Abu Azeez: The Nigerian who made the World Player of the Year shortlist

19:53 BST 29/09/2022
Abu Azeez
The Nigerian is making strides in beach football, like 11 other Africans in this form of the sport.

Abu Azeez is one of the players shortlisted for the 2022 Beach Soccer World Player of the Year.

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest Nigerians to play on the sand, the forward had represented some top teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League.

So who is he and how did he reach this stage? GOAL brings you everything you need to know.

Who is Abu Azeez?

Born in Lagos, Nigeria – Azeez is a professional footballer who initially rose through the youth ranks of Owibeseb FC and Bridge Boys before heading to Kwara United in 2013.

In Ilorin, he was handed his first professional contract and after one year, he was signed by one of Nigeria’s biggest teams at that time Warri Wolves.

To cap a notable start to life in Delta, Abu played a key role in the team’s second-place finish in the NPFL – which handed them a place in the Caf Champions League.

His nomadic career saw him represent two-time Caf Champions League winners Enyimba, Shooting Stars and Remo Stars.

During his time with the People’s Elephants, he went on trial at Turkish side club Samsunspor – however, he could not pen a deal with the Red Lightning.

What type of player is Abu Azeez?

Abu is an adaptable striker and is capable of playing anywhere across the attacking line.

Blessed with decent pace, the 28-year-old can dribble and his shots pack a missile.

How did Abu Azeez switch to beach soccer?

Aside from his brilliance in the beautiful game, Azeez is one of the pioneers of Nigeria’s beach soccer team.

As a teenager, he played against the Super Sand Eagles in a friendly match in Badagry. There, he impressed coach Adamu Ejor who invited him for screening in preparation for the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai.

Then 15-year-old, he made the cut alongside the likes of Bartholomew Ibenegbu, Isiaka Olawale, Ogbonnanya Okemiri and Victor Tale.

Interestingly, Azeez- who modelled his game alongside Brazil’s trio of Benjamin, Bruno Malias and Buru – is the first and only Nigerian to reach a century of goals for the national team.

The two-time Africa Beach Soccer Cup of Nations top scorer played a key role in the West African’s quarter-final finish at the World Cup.

His immense contributions to the game saw him make the best 50 Beach Soccer Worldwide players in 2017 as well as earning an ambassadorial role.

Which Africans are on the list with Abu?

Abu is one of the 12 Africans who made the 100 players shortlist alongside compatriot Emeka Ogbonna.

Others who made the cut are Ahmed Elshahat (Egypt), Al Seyni Ndiaye (Senegal), Antonio Jose Namape (Mozambique), and Emmanuel Wasswa (Uganda).

The rest are Mammadou Sylla (Senegal), Mohamed El-Sayed (Egypt), Nelson Joao Manuel (Mozambique), Ninou Diatta (Senegal), Rabi Abdoutalbi (Morocco), and Raoul Mendy (Senegal).

How Abu reacted to his nomination?

The tireless beach soccer crusader says his inclusion in the list would make him do more.

He told GOAL: “It means so much to me and my career, it means I have done a lot on and off the pitch for beach soccer in Africa and the world as a whole, this nomination makes me want to do more.”

Following Nigeria’s disastrous outing at the 2019 World Cup in Brazil – where they were in the group stage having lost to Brazil, Oman and Portugal, the Nigeria Football Federation disbanded the team.

This according to the 28-year-old could stand in his way to becoming the first African to win the prestigious prize due to the inactivity of the Super Sand Eagles.

“I know so well, I would have gotten more than 150 goals, I was on top of my game when the ban started, it’s been 3 years and it will affect my chance,” he continued.

“Truth was that we performed badly but all we needed was just some changes in the team and not a ban.”