Mukarama Abdulai was on tiptoes as she made her way to speak to FIFA.com to fulfil a duty she is already growing accustomed to, thanks to her superlative performances for Ghana’s U-17 women’s team. For players blessed with talent like her, media duties are part and parcel of the game.
The forward had a big hand in the Black Maidens’ qualification for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018, scoring 12 goals in the African preliminaries. Little surprise, then, that she is also her team’s captain. And though she prefers to speak with her feet, Abdulai is also blessed with an infectious mental strength, a quality Ghana will need during their Uruguayan adventure, which begins on Tuesday, November 13 against the host nation.
"The coach has spent a long time preparing us for this first match and for the atmosphere we can expect there," explained Abdulai. "We have to be totally focused so that we don’t get knocked off our stride by the home fans cheering for their team."
Clearing the first hurdle
Her self-confidence is founded on the determination she has shown to get this far. "It wasn’t culturally acceptable in our country for a girl to play football and compete with the boys, but my first obstacle lay at home: my mother didn’t believe I had any future in football. To begin with she tried to convince me not to waste my energy on it."
In the face of that opposition, Abdulai found support from another family member. "My brother has always believed in me and he helped me find a coach and a good club where I could develop my game."
The gifted striker hopes to turn professional one day, her determination to achieve that goal founded on the backing she now enjoys from her mother: "She’s the first to support me and encourage me to work hard and give it my all in training."
The undisputed leader of a Ghana team coached by Evans Adotey, Abdulai is hoping her iron will rub off on her team-mates. "I don’t know what lies ahead of me but I believe in my ability to overcome the hurdles put in my way. I have the responsibility of being mentally stronger than all my team-mates and it’s a job that suits me down to the ground."
Abdulai intends to share that belief with her team before they take to the pitch at the Estadio Charrua in Montevideo. One of the brightest young players in African women’s football, she is well aware of what is at stake.
"I believe in myself and my team-mates and I hope I can inspire them to excel themselves. The World Cup can change our lives and open up doors for us in terms of our careers. We have to rise to the challenges we face and keep going till the end."
As she has shown in her short career to date, Abdulai is as mentally strong as she is naturally gifted with her feet: "I managed to make my mother see things differently and if I can do that, anything is possible."