IN INTERVIEW WITH . . . Christian Atsu
How much he is enjoying being back in the Premier League with Newcastle United . . .
“I am very happy to be in the Premier League with Newcastle, a very big club, and we are working hard to stay in the league. We will be very happy if we keep working hard each and every day, I am also very happy working under Rafa Benitez.”
Rafa Benitez's apparent faith in his ability and trust in him . . .
“Yeah I’m very happy there because I get a manager that trusts in me and I’m working very hard. It’s really enjoyable working under him. He’s a very good man and manager so for me, it’s great.”
What he is asked to do on the pitch . . .
“In the Premier League if you can attack then you can also defend, so he wants me to defend well and then attack. I think that is what every manager wants from a player. He’s helping me to attack more and I’m improving my movement.”
Which team has been the toughest to play against in the Premier League . . .
“I think Manchester City are doing really well, they are one of the most difficult teams to play against because they play with the ball and create more chances. You’ve got to close them down. Also Liverpool, we drew against them but they were very good on the ball.”
Whether the Premier League is the best league in the world . . .
“Yes It’s the intensity of the game, I mean it’s a very competitive league compared to other leagues because you have a lots of teams competing for the title every year and it’s really hard to be a team at the bottom. So this is what makes it the best league in the world and this year, we have a lot of clubs in the Champions League so it’s definitely improving. Even if a big club is playing a smaller club, you cannot predict the scoreline.”
His reflections on why Ghana failed to reach the World Cup in Russia . . .
“We were very disappointed to not go to the World Cup, we had a lot of issues and it didn’t go well. But for us now we cannot bring the World Cup back, so we are now focusing on the African Cup of Nations because the people are expecting this generation to win something for Ghana. It’s been almost thirty-six, thirty-seven years since Ghana won the African Cup so even the nation is more focused on that cup more than the World Cup.”
Ghana being considered one of the favourites to win the AFCON . . .
“It’s difficult because you can see Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco are doing very good, you have these teams and everything depends on the players. Everyone is working hard so I cannot say we are one of the favourites but I believe that if we work hard for each other and trust each other then we will achieve our dreams.”
What advice he would give to young African footballers wanting to follow in his footsteps . . .
“It is difficult when you are in Africa to come and play in Europe because we have a lot of talented African players but a limited chance to come to Europe. But now we have a lot of scouts, scouting African players so they have more advantage. I have been a Christian all my life and God helps us by bringing people into our lives that will move us forward. So my advice is that you need to work hard and also pray that God will break open opportunities for you.”
Why he needs his Christian faith in life . . .
“God is love and I think everyone needs God because He wants to help us in this life and that’s what most of us don’t recognise. He is ready to help us spiritually and also physically, so I think everyone needs Him. Without God we wouldn’t be on this earth.”
Why he always uses the tagline 'God is the reason' on his social media accounts . . .
“I work so hard and I’ve seen a lot of people in this life who work hard but never get to the level that they wanted to. People say that hard work takes you higher but I’ve just said, I’ve seen a lot of talented people who have worked harder than me but they couldn’t reach the levels that I have achieved. So when I say ‘God is the reason’, I mean that he is the one that has brought me this far, He is the most important person. Every good thing comes from above so everything that I have, God has given to me.”
Whether his faith makes him a better footballer . . .
“Yes, God makes you a better footballer because it is God who can open opportunities for you. It is God who will give you the strength, it is God who will give you the wisdom, the idea to improve your technique and your game. So in everything that you are doing, it is God who gives you all these ideas to improve upon your work.”