The Big Wait: German-born Jonas David Working To Fulfill Nigerian Dream
It was the 2010 World Cup and Germany were one of the highest-rated teams in the world and one of the favourites going into the competition. The team sheet had quite a number of surprise inclusions with then Hamburg left full-back, Dennis Aogo one of those.
Aogo, born to a Nigerian father and a German mother chose to represent the Die Mannschaft and had his outing at the World Cup. His refusal to play for Nigeria was seen as a major loss as the Nigerian national team handlers had monitored him for a considerable time.
Many players have come and gone since Aogo, with the likes of Kevin Akpoguma, Leon Balogun and Maduka Okoye choosing to represent the Nigerian national team, either for a lack of opportunities in their country of birth, Germany or as a result of intense desires to file out for their country of ancestry. What cannot be taken away from these players is the passion and respect they show when called upon and their seamless transition into African football.
Wearing the Hamburg colours worn by Aogo at the time is Jonas Chimezie David. However, the 21-year old unlike Aogo, has pledged his international future to the Super Eagles. A very young and talented defender, David has been impressive so far this season in the Bundesliga 2 where he’s been a regular presence at Hamburg.
In an interview with Omasport, he revealed his love for Nigeria, the national team and what the future holds.
Hi Jonas David. How much of a Nigerian is Jonas David?
My dad’s from Nigeria and my mum is from Germany. We were raised in both cultures. Like the German culture and the Nigerian culture. We eat Nigerian food. We eat plantain, we eat egusi soup. We like it a lot, but also the German side you know. We were raised both ways. But, unfortunately, my dad never taught me how to speak the Igbo language, I’m not able to speak the language. I regret that because when I see other Nigerian players on the pitch, they always asked me, do you speak Igbo but I don’t speak. I want to learn but it’s very very hard, sometimes ask my dad stuff, so hard. I want to learn it so that I can talk with my cousins in Nigeria So they are not, not just all about English also and other languages because Igbo is also a part of me and my family.
Have you ever been to Nigeria?
No, that’s the problem. My whole family, everyone went there last winter. Over Christmas but in Germany, we just had like four or five days break. Because of the coronavirus, we played the whole year and that’s why I couldn’t go, but we already planning for this winter, so I hope we have maybe like one or two weeks off so I can go there and see my cousins in real life, because we only communicate by texting, through Instagram or WhatsApp, but it’s always different to see, to see them in real life. I want to go this year for sure, during the winter break.
Okay, we live in a digital world, the internet. I’m sure with the internet you are still connected to Nigeria. Tell me how much of Nigerian entertainment, Nigerian culture, how much of Nigeria do you have inside of you from entertainment to the music, of course, you talked about the food you eat egusi soup, you eat plantain. The pounded yam and all that.
Yeah, the food is one thing but also, I mean the music, the dance. They’re viral you know, it’s like Nigeria is a big county. When I was young I didn’t know that Nigeria is that big but when you get older you can see all the people there, like also like Naira Marley, I like his music. I heard he is the king over there. I see on Instagram how the people run behind his car on the street. It is crazy.
Do you like David, Wizkid Burna Boy as well?
Yeah, I like Burna Boy a lot but I think he is also very famous in Europe as everyone knows him. Yes, he’s like a big big player in the music branch. But also Davido and Wizkid. I like Nigerian music a lot, I listen to it often. and I think the African vibes and music is getting more popular. I see now German white people dancing to these songs. (Laughs)
It’s crazy. I think it’s a whole new era, you know like the African people with their talent they get. Also because of Instagram and social media in general, they are heard now, you know, and in the past, fewer people knew that there is so much talent in Africa. Now everyone can see and it’s like, it’s crazy, because they’re going viral they dancing, they are singing so good. I like it. I’m listening to Burna Boy a lot, but for me like Burna Boy is the best Nigerian musician but I think everyone is different, but I also like Naira Marley because it’s doing like, it’s a bit like the London vibe, you know. I like it a lot. I am a real Naija boy. It is a big part of me.
Now let’s talk about football. You play currently for SV Hamburg. Such a big club, even though they are the second division, a club with a rich history. You played all the games this season from what I saw. How does this feel to play for such a big club?
Yeah, it’s crazy because I was born and Hamburg as well. I played in the youth team and now I am in the first team. And it is like a dream come true I mean, like all my friends from the school, everyone is like supporters of the club so if you win like it’s crazy, if you go out people ask, like, wao you won, how was it? Everyone is asking you questions. It is like a new thing. The club is very big. I mean if you look at our stadium I think there are like 57,000 people who can go inside. It’s crazy. The support is crazy. And we are a big club and there’s also a lot of pressure, but it’s a part of the game. If you learn it at a young age, it’s even better. So I think if you play here and you can survive here it’s very very good and then it makes it a lot easier for your future if you go to a big club because you’re already a bit familiar with this, like a big fan base like with the attention.
Jerome Boateng passed through Hamburg. He became very big in Germany, played for the German national team. Is he one of those guys who inspire you?
There is Jerome Boateng who played in Hamburg and there is also another guy called Jonathan Tah, he is from Hamburg as well and he played for Hamburg. He played his first season at Hamburg and then he went to Leverkusen. They both play in the same position as myself and they look a bit like me so I look up to them and try to kind of follow their way, you know, I mean they, they have a big career, great players and I would love to go not the same way as them but in the same direction.
Tell us a bit about your career so far. How did you get to SV Hamburg? How did you get to this level?
I started at a club, it is called Meiendorfer SV. It is like where I live, in my region. I just started playing there with my friends, you know, on the hard floor. I always go home with bruises on my knees but we always had fun. And then, after a while, I moved on. I got to a new team, a new coach. It was also a very great experience, I think I was there until I was 14 or 13. And then I went to Eintracht Norderstedt. At 14 I got scouted by SV Hamburg. I started with the under 15 and I played through the whole youth system until the first year with the under 19 and then when I was 18, I was promoted to the first team. And from then on I trained a lot, I improved myself a lot. I had to put in a lot of work to reach where I am today. Now I’m in the starting 11 every weekend and it’s a great feeling because I’m from Hamburg. It’s like the goal of everyone who’s in the youth team of Hamburg o play in this stadium so I feel very honored to play there but I also know that it is like a responsibility for the other ones who didn’t make it. To give my best every day, try to keep my position up you know.
Congratulations on that. You have played for the German under 19 and 20 national teams. A lot of young players, born in Europe are moving to play for their national teams in Africa for example, in Nigeria now we have Leon Balogun, Maaduka Okay. We have William Troost- ekong, we have Kevin Akpoguma who plays for Hoffenheim. He just joined the Nigerian team. There is Alex Iwobi from England Ola Aina and a few others. Is that what you would also want to do. Do you want to represent Nigeria at the international level?
Of course, It is my goal. it’s like a dream coming true. I mean, it’s the country of my father. I want to make him proud. I want to make my family over there proud. I mean to give something back. Of course, there are other ways but I think it’s also a good way to give them something back. It’s a part of the history of my family and it would be an honor to play for the Super Eagles with them, I mean they are great players. They play in the Premier League and they’re very good players. It would be crazy to play next to them. Players like Iwobi, Iheanacho, Ndidi. Top players, you can learn so much from them. It would be a dream for me.
If you have a chance tomorrow. Do you think that you are ready to play for the Super Eagles?
(Laughs) I’m ready. I’m training hard, I am giving my best. If the coach thinks I deserve a chance, I will get it and do my best. I mean that’s the only way. And yeah, from then we will move on and see what it brings, it’s like you always have to be ready, you need to be prepared, you need to do your stuff. I feel good and I am ready.
Have you discussed with your father about representing Nigeria and what has he told you?
We already had the topic, like some years ago, and I already told him like I want to go and play for Nigeria and he was, he loved the idea. But somehow it didn’t work but now, we will get a new chance maybe in the future. So, of course, excited too and he will be good support I think. So, Yeah, of course, I mean he’s from Nigeria. He was born and raised in Nigeria, he loves football like, I think in Nigeria, they are crazy. They love football like crazy, so he would love it too. I mean it would be fantastic for him to see his son playing for the national team. He will be so proud.
Now, before you go for a game before you go for a match, what do you do, do you pray, do you listen to music, what do you do?
Always, before I go on. When we were in the locker room. Three minutes to the game. I got something from my dad. I always make like a small cross on my head. And I pray. It’s like I’m religious, you know, it’s like the way you were raised. So I pray to stay out of injury, to have a good game, and that he will protect me and my team. Yeah and then just go out and give my best. And yeah, when we like when on the bus or in the hotel I listen to music. I’m listening to two different types of music and just my normal playlists, you know, like there’s everything inside from African hip hop to everything. There is a lot inside. So yeah I’m just vibing and trying to get into a good mood, you know because it’s the best you know when you take it easy, no stress just go out and have fun. It’s like the best mood to play for me. So I just put on my AirPods and listen to music and yea, just do my thing.
Who are your favorite international musicians?
I need to say Lil baby. I like him. He is from America and I like him. Burna Boy. I like his music because it’s so easy for him. I like his lovely songs. And the third one is hard but I love Chris Brown. But I prefer his old songs like from the early 2000s and stuff like that.
Do you have siblings?
I have a twin sister. It is all good vibes. I also have an older sister. She is like four years older than me.
Can you say a word in pidgin English?
(Laughs)I know more words in Igbo than in pidgin English.
Okay. Tell us some words in Igbo.
(Laughs) I think yes is a and no is Mba. It’s so hard to learn. I try sometimes with my dad but it is so hard. I think it’s easier if you are over there and you have to talk every day. Also, in English, you know, because we just learned English in school in Germany. You know if you are over there and you talk to people, you automatically start talking differently, and also for example Igbo. I am there. Even if I don’t understand everything like with time you start to get some words so that you know what they’re talking about. So it’s like this because I only hear Igbo when my dad is on the phone and talking loud and screaming like crazy(laughs).
I want to wish you all the best. I want to say to you that very soon you will start speaking a lot of Pidgin. A lot of Igbo as well because you’ll be going to Nigeria a lot. When you start playing for the Nigerian National Team. Your chance will come very soon. Just keep doing what you’re doing. The sky is the limit. Thank you very much. All the best to you.