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Ansu Fati: From Guinea-Bissau suburb to Barcelona’s Camp Nou5 minutes read

He was just 7 when he first came to Spain and his startling talent meant he was invited to join Barcelona’s prestigious youth academy

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Ansu Fati: From Guinea-Bissau suburb to Barcelona's Camp Nou

Ansu Fati has made a long trip from the fields of Guinea-Bissau, where he played as a child, to Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium where the 16-year-old is playing with some of the biggest stars in the world.

Fati has made a stirring start to the season, scoring just two minutes into his full La Liga debut on a magical night when he hardly put a foot wrong in front of over 80,000 astonished Camp Nou fans who gave him a standing ovation as he left the field.

He was just seven years old when he first came to Spain and his startling talent meant he was invited to join Barcelona’s prestigious youth academy ‘La Masia’ aged 10.

It was an incredible achievement for a boy from a country that has never been known globally for football. 

In Sao Paulo, his home neighbourhood in the rundown suburbs of capital Bissau, the children yell “Ansu Fati, Barca player!” as they run around on ochre soil, under the tropical trees. 

Malam Romisio, who coached Fati as a child, told reporters how the boy used to play football wearing only socks or plastic sandals, easily dribbling the ball past bigger, stronger teammates.

When Fati made his debut with Barca’s first team at the end of August, the coach switched his allegiance from Real Madrid.

Ansu Fati: From Guinea-Bissau suburb to Barcelona's Camp Nou
Barcelona´s Guinea-Bissau forward Ansu Fati (R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against Valencia CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 14, 2019. (Photo by PAU BARRENA / AFP)

“If he continues like this, he will be a great player,” he predicted.

In Guinea-Bissau, Fati is a source of national pride.

Born on October 31, 2002, he lived in Bissau until he was six.

In the house where he grew up, Fati’s uncle Djibi Fati shows photos of the footballer as a child, dressed in traditional clothes, recalling how others used to tease him for his love of bread and butter.

“Every time he came back from playing football, he would ask for it,” he recalls.

Family divided, reunited in Spain –

When he was still very small, his father, Bori Fati, went to Portugal to look for work, later settling near Seville in southwestern Spain.

Bori picked olives, collected empty glasses in nightclubs and even helped build a high-speed rail track, recalls Amador Saavedra, who befriended him in Herrera, some 100 kilometres north of Malaga.

It was only when the Communist mayor of Marinaleda, a nearby town, hired Bori as a driver and helped him financially, that he managed to bring his young family over in 2009.

“It’s a very beautiful story,” said Saavedra, 53.

Bori ended up training his young son at the Peloteros football school, which is free for thousands of children in Herrera and the surrounding towns.

Cheerful but quiet –

When Fati arrived, he quickly caused a sensation on the football pitch, said Jordi Figaroa Moreno, his first Spanish coach.

Ansu Fati: From Guinea-Bissau suburb to Barcelona's Camp Nou
Former coach of Bissau-Guinean football player Ansu Fati, Jordi Figueroa looks at trophies at the “Peloteros” football school, in Herrera, Sevilla, on September 18, 2019. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

“He had a gift,” he told reporters.

“The difference between him and his teammates was just huge, both technically and tactically. Among the youngsters, it’s rare to find children who can play as a team, but he had everything.”

Jose Luis Perez Mena, who runs the Peloteros school, described Fati as “very spontaneous” and “very cheerful” as well as “extroverted, but very quiet”.

His stellar success “has not gone to his head”.

Within a year of arriving in Spain, Fati joined Sevilla. In 2012, at the age of 10, he was enrolled in Barcelona’s youth system.

“Ansu was one of the youngest players ever to have entered La Masia,” said Marc Serra, his first coach at Barcelona.

“From the day that he arrived, he was different, the type of player who invents football.”

‘Mind-blowing’ –

In August, the teenager became the youngest player to score for Barcelona in La Liga. This month, he became the club’s youngest player in a Champions League match.

Ansu Fati: From Guinea-Bissau suburb to Barcelona's Camp Nou
(Photo by SASCHA SCHUERMANN / AFP)

Spain’s national coach Robert Moreno described Fati’s debut for Barcelona as “mind-blowing”. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde spoke of him as a “balanced boy” who is “at ease with himself”.

“We want him to learn to know himself, to know the first division, so he sees that it is hard and how much work and dedication it will take to succeed,” he said.

Speaking to Spain’s Onda Cero radio last month, his proud father said he had taught Fati to “be respectful and happy with everyone”.

“Every day I tell him: ‘This is your job: when you have the ball, turn towards the goal, don’t look anywhere else, and just shoot.”

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2Baba releases new album “Warriors”

The album is a key offering in the celebration of 2Baba’s 20 Years A King project.

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Award-winning Afropop icon 2Baba has released his new album titled “Warriors” earlier today, February 28. This album is released as part of his 20 Years a King (#20YearAKing) celebration, commemorating the two decades he has spent in the Nigerian music industry.

This new album contains just 13 tracks including previously released singles like ‘Important’, ‘Oyi’ and the Peruzzi-assisted smash hit, ‘Amaka’. The LP also boasts big-name collaborations like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Olamide, Tiwa Savage and Peruzzi. It also features appearances from AJ Natives, Symeca and his daughter HI Idibia.

The production of the album is handled by a galaxy of PBanks, Spelz, Blaq Jeerzy, Bolji Beatz, Speroach Beatz, Richie, Ploops and his longtime collaborator, Jay Sleek.

Interestingly, this is the first 2Baba album that comes with a title track, which also serves as the opener of the full-length project.

On Tuesday, February 25, the celebrated singer held a well-attended listening party for the album at the Artisan Lounge bar, Lagos.

His seventh studio album, “Warriors” is the long-overdue follow up to “The Ascension” which was met with mixed reviews upon its release in 2014.

Formerly known as 2face Idibia, 2baba is one Africa’s most successful artists, winning local, continental and international awards like BET and MTV Europe Music Awards.

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Feature News

Exporting African sounds into Italy

Nigerian migrants are introducing Afrobeat to one of Italy’s most popular cities

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Nigerians are slowly stamping their authority in Italy's music space. Photo credit: Quartz Africa

Migrating from Africa to Europe is a particularly tricky business. It is usually very difficult to obtain visas, and consequently, many people opt for the long, tortuous route that runs through the Sahara Desert and extends into the Mediterranean Sea. It is a risky journey in many ways, as desperate migrants get robbed, swindled, enslaved or worse still, meet their end in the hot sands and high seas.

There is also the small matter of reputation when it comes to successful migrants. There are those who believe that men and women who manage to avoid death or slavery, and ultimately cross the borders into Italy and Spain, are either involved in drug peddling, prostitution or unsavoury menial jobs like washing up corpses.

There is a small group of people, however, who are slowly changing the narrative. These ones are not only showing that there is more that African migrants can do in Europe, but they are also exporting Nigerian music in all its exotic nature and rich flavour into one of Italy’s major cities.

Palermo, the capital city of the Sicilian province, is slowly becoming the Southern European capital for the world-conquering Afrobeats scene. Social media has given a platform to musicians who can reach a wide audience without institutional support. There are more than a few cities in Italy that are not exactly kind to migrants, but Palermo has gradually become a haven for a number of young Nigerian musicians to hone their craft and attempt to carve a niche for themselves on European shores.

The influx of these musicians has had a significant effect on the city, too. For instance, Ballaro, a small neighbourhood in Palermo, was once known as one of the most dangerous places in Italy, no thanks to the activities of the Mafia. But with the arrival of African and Asian immigrants, the neighbourhood is now revitalised and less prone to crime.

Artists like RayJeezy, Brenex Baba and Thug Money make a living from performing at night clubs across the city. They hope that their hustle ultimately pays off and that they gain worldwide recognition, but for now, they are contributing to the transformation of a city’s music and culture. Things are looking up for the African migrant population in Palermo, and it’s not hard to tell that there will be more where the music came from.

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Entertainment

Netflix Announces First Original Nigerian Series

This comes just after the U.S-based streaming giant launched Netflix Naija.

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Popular media-services provider Netflix has announced the production of its first original African series to be headlined by Nollywood director, Akin Omotoso.

This would be a six-part series that features an all-star Nollywood cast of Kate Henshaw, Ade Laoye, Richard Mofe Damijo, Joke Silva, Fabian Adeoye Lojede, Kehinde Bankole and many others. 

Directed by a team of Akin Omotosho, Daniel Oriahi and CJ Obasi, the series tells the story of a reincarnated goddess who seeks to avenge her sister’s death.

This announcement comes just after the U.S-based streaming platform unveiled Netflix Naija on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

In a statement with Premium Times, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos revealed that “movies like King of Boys, Merry Men and The Bling Lagosians have shown how much our members love Nigerian movies. 

“So, we’re incredibly excited to be investing in Made in Nigeria stories – bringing them to audiences all around the world.”

Over the past year, Netflix has featured a number of Nollywood movies on its streaming platform. Among such movies include the culturally and commercially successful King of Boys, October 1, The Figurine, Mokalik, and Merry Men. 

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