Austin Okocha, Juan Mata, Bernardo Silva, Lionel Messi, Xavi, and David Silva. These are all world-class players. They all have some common traits. They are attacking midfielders and they aren’t the biggest in terms of size or height. What they lack in size, they compensate with skills, goals, and defense-splitting passes and assists.
One advantage players with small physique have, is their low gravitational force, which makes them more stable while dribbling and very difficult to dispossess whenever they are with the ball. An example is Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, the Late Diego Maradona, and David Silva. These players were exceptionally good when on the ball and they had this uncanny way of utilizing small pockets of space in the field of play.
Gidado Toyeeb, an attacking midfielder with Remo Stars FC shared with me during an interactive chat recently, about his love for Bernardo Silva, the Portuguese international who presently plays for Manchester City of England. Weighing at 68KG and a height of 5 feet, 4 inches, the Lagos born footballer doesn’t lack the confidence to take on bigger players.
“I prefer the taller players because it is easier for me to maneuver around them. I don’t have problems dealing with players that are bigger than me”
Gidado who was nicknamed “Baba Kekere”, while playing with Crest Football Academy (Formerly Cowbell Football Academy) because of his height, never allowed his small size to stop him from achieving his dream. The Academy which was owned by Godwin Dudu Orumen helped shaped his career.
He was also part of the victorious U-15 team that represented Nigeria at the 2014 African Youth games held at Gaborone, Botswana. Gidado coincidentally captained the team, which went on to win the Gold medal at the competition. They defeated Swaziland 3-1 in the final.
The team led by coach Danladi Nasidi, defeated host Botswana 2-0 in their opening game, before playing a 0-0 draw with Mali. They trashed South Africa 3-0 in their third game before defeating Tanzania 2-0 in the Semi-Finals.
Asked to share his experience at the competition, Gidado remembered with nostalgia, the excitement that came with winning his first major honor as a footballer; “It was great. It’s the best feeling ever, wearing the green white green jersey of Nigeria. Nothing feels better. The happiness, excitement. It was my best moment as a footballer, and I was the captain of the team”.
He didn’t score in the tournament, but chipped in three-assist, as the team scored an impressive eight goals while conceding just one goal en route to winning the Gold Medal. He jokingly shared how his teammates and friends threatened him because of his height. he said he has however come to accept his faith, as he didn’t create himself.
Gidado who is the eldest of four kids remembered the rough treatment he usually got from his Dad whenever he came home late after playing street soccer. “Dad and Mum didn’t approve of me playing street soccer at that time. Mum didn’t even want me to go into football. It was not until I went to England in 2011 for the Copa Coca-Cola Mini Tournament, that they began to approve of my taking up football as a career.
When asked about the secret of his success in Remo Stars FC. He attributed his performance so far to the influence of the Remo Stars FC coach. “My present manager usually has a mantra, and that is IJA, which when translated from Yoruba means FIGHT. It’s not about been talented alone. You must be ready to give your all at any given moment. You have to be ready to Fight”
On a final note, he has this little advice for aspiring footballers: “As an aspiring footballer, you have to be confident. You got to be disciplined. There would be lots of obstacles. Be ready for challenges and stay focused. Hopefully, everything will fall in place”