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Interview: Fauzia Najjemba opens up on life in Europe and her football journey so far

Fauzia Najjemba has made her mark and established herself as one of the most exciting talented prospects in Africa. Just at the age of 19, the ambidextrous forward is gradually etching her name in Europe.

In Uganda, she played for Isra Soccer Academy and Kampala Queens before joining BIIK Shymkent in 2022. A year later, she made a move to ZFK Dynamo Moscow where she currently plays.

Professional football comes with its own demands and a player ought to adapt to the new environment in order to succeed.

Najjemba who is currently in camp with the Crested Cranes as they prepare to face Rwanda in the 2024 Paris Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Qualifiers shares her experience in a one on one interview with the FUFA Communications Department.

FUFA COMM: Hello Fauzia, how has life been for you in Europe and how have you been able to cope up?

NAJJEMBA: Life has been good so far but of course it comes with challenges. It is never easy at the beginning and I found it hard to acclimatize to the weather because it was winter time in Russia. It was a different country, new team, new food, language and culture but I have slowly tried to adapt and now settling in well. The club and players received me well and that perhaps helped me to fit in with relative ease.  But most importantly, you must be hard working, creative and focus on what took you there.

FUFA COMM: Are you the only African on the team?

NAJJEMBA: Yes, I am, so it is really not that easy. Majority of the players do not speak English and communication is sometimes a challenge but I am trying to learn the Russian language and I can make a few statements and understand what the coaches mean during demonstrations.

FUFA COMM: How do you rate your performance so far at ZFK Dynamo Moscow?

NAJJEMBA: Not bad.  The first five games saw me register two goals and four assists. Unfortunately, I sustained an injury that kept me on the sidelines for one month. The last game we played before I came for national team duty, I scored a hat trick in a cup game. I hope to keep improving and help the team attain the targets set this season.

FUFA COMM: Any differences you see in women’s football in Europe and here, Uganda in particular?

NAJJEMBA: We really play the same game. What differs is the level of organization and approach to the game. Everything you do is monitored and planned from training sessions; gym work and theory sessions etc. For instance, before we play against any team, we have to learn their system and how they use it to defend or attack.

Also, if a player is not okay, either physically or mentally, they take care of you until when you are ready to play. They have psychologists, physiotherapists who will tell your situation just by looking at you, how you walk and how you conduct yourself.

FUFA COMM: What does it mean for you coming through the ranks from U-17 to the senior national team?

NAJJEMBA: It is a good feeling to be part of the national team and I am thankful to Allah that I have been able to play at all levels. At my club, we have professional players summoned to their respective national teams and I am glad that this time, I was one of those.

I have been on the national team several times but being here adds a lot to my career and I do not take this for granted.

FUFA COMM: You are a player that literally plays everywhere on the pitch but what is your favorite position?

NAJJEMBA: I am a forward but I feel more comfortable on the left wing because it allows me to cut inside and shoot with my right foot. But I can play anywhere except in goal. (laughs).

FUFA COMM: So have you had insistencies in Europe where the coach has asked you to play in a different position?

NAJJEMBA: Yes, I have played as a Centre forward, a half ten, ten and I have also played on the right – both as a winger and a fullback. As a player, you must be able to adapt to different roles because that makes you unique.

FUFA COMM: What do you think are Uganda’s chances in the upcoming 2024 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Qualifiers, considering Africa has only two slots.

NAJJEMBA: I believe we are a good team capable of taking on anyone on the continent. Playing at Women Africa Cup of Nations was an eye opener for many of us and I hope, we can be one of the two teams that will represent Africa.

I know the journey is long but we shall handle every level as it comes and now all the focus is on Rwanda.

FUFA COMM: Who do you look up to in football and why?

NAJJEMBA: I am inspired by Alex Morgan. She is a striker and used to score loads of goals. That has gone down a bit, perhaps, because she is getting older. The other player is Sam Kerr who plays for Chelsea Women FC.

FUFA COMM: What has been the key for your success? Your career is definitely still young but you have also achieved a lot.

NAJJEMBA: Hard work, discipline, commitment, being prayerful and lastly having the passion. You cannot succeed at anything if you do not love it.

FUFA COMM: Any last words for a young girl out there that wants to be like you?

NAJJEMBA: Work hard and do not give up. I was summoned on the national team several times and dropped but I kept my head up. In life, never frown because of a challenge, you must find positivity out of any negative situation.

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