But it is the gift of football skills and his inclination to formal education that has separated Usman from his friends and the daily and perhaps drab but lucrative routine of buying and selling grains in the local market. Approached after his side’s recent Friday Special Glo Premier League win over Heartland, Usman disclosed that trading in grains comes natural to most male folks in his hometown because it provides them a source of livelihood and keeps them in their native town.
"I would have gone into the business of buying and selling of grains if not for football and the fact that I acquired formal education by going to school. Though it is true that none of my family members joined the popular grains trading, almost all my friends are all into the business and it is an attractive and lucrative business for people in my town," revealed Usman.
Usman is at present a 200 level undergraduate studying Business Administration at the University of Maiduguri. He is one of few players in the Nigerian top division combining a career in professional football and pursuit of formal education at university level which he confessed has been quite daunting.
"It hasn’t been that easy balancing school work and my football career despite the fact that it is a distant learning programme that I enrolled for. It becomes more challenging during examination periods as I would need to go stay in the school to write the papers but I have been lucky to have the understanding of the club and coach. They always allowed me to go and write my exams being aware I'm studying for my first degree.
"The coach (Maurice Cooreman) has been very understanding when it comes to my formal education and also my football education under him. He has encouraged me the more to do well in both areas," Usman narrated.
The player has placed a lot of premium on his academic pursuits and is mindful that it is not just for the acquisition of a university degree. His mind is very clear on the objective for undergoing training in the university which includes improving his inter-personal relationship skills and preparing him for a future life after football.
"I'm studying now because I know there is life after football and I believe some kind of formal education will help me in whatever I'll be doing in future if I eventually retire from the sport," he reasoned.
First goal of the season
The 30-year-old midfielder has spent the last seven years at Gombe United after joining the Savannah Scorpions from his home state club, El-Kanemi Warriors in 2007.
Usman was El-Kanemi Warriors captain at 22 years in the 2006/07 Glo Premier League season. But he has now settled down at Gombe United and is even happy that he was not just among the scorers in his club's 2-1 win over Heartland on Match Day 4 but has also became his team's first scorer for this season.
"I must say I'm quite excited to have scored my first goal of the season for my club. It is even more exciting that my goal is the first scored by my club in the league this season. My excitement is not because it is a personal achievement but it is because it helped us win our first three points of the season.
"Heartland made it difficult for us when they took the lead but we kept our cool and played to win. I believe this to be the sign of good things to come for us at Gombe United," remarked Usman, one of the club’s most experienced players.
Usman has been capped by Nigeria's beach soccer national team at the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup in 2006, 2007 and 2009 but now has his sight set on his club's trip to Ibadan where they will face Crown FC on April 5.
"I believe we can take our good form in our last match to win at Crown FC. We have the coach and the players to do so," Usman said, exuding such confidence that is infectious.
Culled from the www.lmc-ng.org