Super Eagles and FC Lorient striker, Terem Moffi, in this interview, talks about his life as a young footballer, football as Nigeria unifying factor and many more
Tell us a bit about your childhood …
I lived with my three brothers and my parents.Growing up in Nigeria were literally the best years of my life.I was surrounded by people who loved me, my family, my friends, school… Everything was much simpler at that time.
What type of boy were you?
Kind of the kind of boy who didn’t give a damn (laughs)! More seriously, all I had in mind was to play football, to be with my friends, to do stupid things.Like all kids and teens can.
What was it like to be the son of a football player?
It didn’t really change much.My father did not play soccer at the highest level.He was just telling me that I could be a footballer and become better than him by being myself.
Who was your younger model?
I watched Robin Van Persie a lot.Then, of course, you hang out on Youtube and watch the compilations of Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and other great players.But I was mainly watching Van Persie.
Do you have an anecdote about your childhood to share with us?
At the age of 10 or 11 there was a scouting camp in Nigeria, “Aspire Academy”, I believe it was an organization from Qatar.
I was really very young and during this program, I played against the big boys.A guy came to me to say, “You are a very good player, but you are too young, we are looking for players of 15 or 16 years”.I started to cry.I really saw it as an opportunity to leave Nigeria and start my adventure in the world of football.
My mother and father must have consoled me.I was really happy that someone recognised my talent and at the same time, I was very disappointed that I wasn’t caught just because of my age.
It is a memory engraved in me.
What type of student were you?
My dad was really, really serious about school.Even today, he pushes me to get a diploma.Younger, I wasn’t the smartest, not because I was stupid, but because I didn’t make an effort.If I had put in just 2% of what I put in training for school, I would have been a genius.
Have you tried other sports?
I am a very good sprinter.I think with the right training I could have become a very good sprinter.
So if you hadn’t been successful in soccer, would you have done athletics?
Maybe yes.When I was in London there was a physical trainer who believed I had the skills to be a good sprinter.
When did you start to believe that you would break into football?
I must have been 15 or 16 years old.When I played football with my friends, I was always a step or two above them.
I was like, “You’re not doing very well at school, you’re not a manual or handyman, the only thing you can do is focus on football.” When I joined the Nigerian U17 team, I saw that I had the qualities to succeed in the world of football.
What type of training did you receive in Nigeria?
The way of conceiving football in Nigeria is very different from what one sees in Europe.There, when you learn the basics, you are already 16 or 17 years old, in Europe, we do that from an early age, at 6 or 7 years old.In Nigeria, we form a group and we play football, it’s that simple (laughs).
Do you understand what I mean? That was really it, you come, you play football and around 16 or 17, you barely start to learn the basics.
You have to be really talented and good to catch up and assimilate the technical, tactical and physical basics quickly.
How do people view football in Nigeria?
I would say football in Africa is the second religion.In Africa, we love football.In Nigeria, football brings people together.When the Super Eagles play, the whole country becomes one.Everyone unites to support the national team.
How did you get to England
It’s a pretty funny story.
In fact, I was at the “Academy” in Lagos, but I had to go back to Calabar to take my high school exams.My agent today had come to Lagos for a scouting program.
He came to my academy and asked “Where is the attacker? And he was told, Ah, this guy is not here today, he left Lagos to take exams .He had never seen me play, never! He called my dad to say, ‘Look, I have an opportunity for your son in London’.This time it was all right, nothing and no one could stop me.
My father told him we were ready, we did my papers, my visa and I travelled to London.
Was it hard to leave Nigeria to discover another culture and another climate?
It’s okay, it wasn’t the hardest cold in London.You know, coming to a new country with a different culture is super difficult when you’re a teenager.I come from Nigeria, in my country we speak English, but over there, understanding the language with their British accent was really hard.I had to go to school and I think during the first weeks of class I didn’t understand what people were saying.Their accent was really impossible for me to decipher.
But it was a good experience, it made me the man I am today, I had to leave my family, to fend for myself.It really built me as a person.
Have you ever doubted yourself or your qualities?
No never.I am a good soccer player.There are days when you have a worse shot, but it’s not because you doubt your talent or yourself, it’s only because you miss your family and friends.
At times like these, you’re just sad for no particular reason.
I sometimes feel that way.In fact, you want to cry for no good reason.But even in these moments, I never doubt myself.
According to Transfermarkt, you are worth € 10m today.
You were worth 75K € in 2017 …
It’s more my dad and brother watching this stuff and end up uploading it to the family’s whatsApp group.Personally, I never went to check my market value.My thing is to play football and watch Netflix in peace.No time to stress (laughs).
Did you have the pressure after your big transfer to Lorient?
Frankly, I don’t know what pressure is.I am very honest.It’s just money, a tag with a price.We don’t put all the misery in the world on your shoulders.You just have to focus on playing football and not worrying about the €8m, €80m or €200m.
How did you adapt to the club?
When I got off, Wissa was one of the only guys who spoke English.
He welcomed me in English and I was there trying to play it cool (laughs).Thomas Fontaine is also a top guy, always ready to help.He drops me off at home, advises me on what to do and what not to do, shows me where this or that thing is.Both really helped me with that.
You scored 14 league goals last season.
What is your secret ?
There is no secret, it’s just a credit to my teammates because without them I can’t score goals.They have to be there to create the chances, to make the assists.There really is no secret.I also have to thank God for that, because being a good player or even an exceptional player is not enough.All this is thanks to God.
You can’t do anything without God.Religion is very important in my life.
How does it feel to be in the top 10 top scorers in Ligue 1?
I can’t explain this feeling.Truly not.Towards the end of last season, I looked at the scorers table and saw Mbappé, Depay, Ben Yedder, Yilmaz and… Terem Moffi.Seriously man? Who is this Terem Moffi? (laughs).
They are exceptional players for their club or for their country, and there you have Terem Moffi in the middle, it’s incredible.
What type of attacker are you?
There are days when I am quite clumsy and others when I am compared to “Lukaku” (he makes the quotes with his fingers).I think I have flair, I am strong, powerful, I have a sense of the game, I am not necessarily the fastest even if I go fast.I try to work on my flaws.
Do you like to be compared to players like Lukaku?
It’s flattering to be compared to him.He is a very good player, a prolific striker who is one of the best in his position.I like the comparison, but I have to work to be better.I have to work to achieve the highest standards in football..