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BEHIND THE SHIRT

Marlon Mustapha: The Interview

Moreno Longo knew exactly what to expect when Marlon Mustapha was signed by German team Mainz 05.

“He is a player who despite his young age already has good experience. He has great physical strength and the ability to attack spaces. He can have a great future with Como,” the coach said.

But what happens off the field?

In the latest installment of our series introducing newcomers to Sinigaglia, the 22-year-old Austrian tells us how he has recovered from the injury he thought could end his career. He will also tell us about his adjustment to the team with locker room jokes and his ideal roster for a 5-a-side soccer game.

How did it all start?

“I am actually the only person in my family who plays soccer. When I started I didn’t have a club or a team. In Germany we used to play on the playground. My oldest, clearest memory about the first soccer game I saw was from the 2008 European Championship.”

Who has influenced you the most?

“It might sound strange, but I was myself being the only one who played soccer in my family. When I grew up and continued with my path, my mother supported me a lot.”

Do you support any team?

“I have never cheered for any particular team. I root for Cristiano Ronaldo, but I don’t spend much time watching games when I’m not playing or coaching.”

Do you follow other sports?

“No, not really (laughs). When I’m home at the end of the day, I’m glad I don’t have to watch soccer games. I like to relax on the couch watching Netflix. I enjoyed Walking Dead. It kept me entertained.”

As for music, do you have a favorite genre?

“I listen to many different genres, but in general I like aggressive music.”

Is music part of your routine on game day?

“The only thing I do, on game day, is wake up with a cold shower. It is very important to activate the whole body. Then, as soon as I leave the hotel, I always have my headphones on. From that moment until we take the field. I prefer not to talk to anyone and isolate myself a little bit.”

What is the most difficult challenge you have faced?

“In September last year, I faced a major injury. It was not known whether I would be able to continue playing. It was a very hard period in which I lost 10kg and had 4 surgeries. It was really a difficult time“.

“The front part of my leg, the quadriceps, was almost torn and they had to put it back together. Every fiber was gone.”

“I suffered from compartment syndrome first. Then, given a particular genetic condition, too much blood in the leg was giving birth to a new bone. I could not bend my leg and it was like having only one leg for almost three months.”

“It was not easy to recover, I’m not just talking about physical fitness but also the mental aspect. I think that was the most important part to overcome.”

How did you stay focused?

“The people around me helped me. I wasn’t giving up, but I didn’t know how to go on. My girlfriend, my manager, and my mother were all there for me. They always told me to keep going and that everything would be okay.”

Has this influenced your outlook on life?

“I always tell myself, especially when things get tough, be comfortable with being uncomfortable“.

Beyond that, what advice would you give to young people?

“If you have a dream, work hard and believe in yourself. Keep going, make sacrifices and if you get an opportunity, take it.”

What is the best advice they gave you?

“There have been coaches over the years who have said things to me that are still clear in my mind. Then my manager. He also played soccer and we have a very close relationship. It happens that we talk even three times a day. The best advice I’ve had comes from a combination of that.”

Do you have a hidden talent outside the field as well?

“No, I work out and go home. I’m happy to spend my free time on the couch with my girlfriend and her dog, who is now also my dog.”

Adrian Šemper also has a dog, could you be found walking in a group in Como?

(Marlon laughs) “We have a Pomeranian Husky. He is very sweet.”

Okay. Besides walking the dog, what do you enjoy about Como?

“I like the weather. But especially the atmosphere and the people. I was welcomed very quickly. The Italian atmosphere, the lake everything is perfect. Living where people come on vacation is a real blessing.”

So you are settling in well? And how did the pre-season retreat go?

“Fortunately, the first two and a half weeks I was on my own. Then Ben Kone came along, but it didn’t go too well. That guy snores in an unbelievable way. I couldn’t sleep! I had to sleep with headphones on to cancel out the noise!”

“But this is a fun group of guys. They’re always pulling pranks on each other and we always have fun when we’re together. Liam (Kerrigan) is probably the jokiest, he’s the best.”

Have you ever had to sing a song as a new player?

“There is a tradition of singing a song, but it can be avoided by paying for a dinner for the team. I think I’ll do that!”

Finally, if you had to make the lineup for a 5-a-side soccer team, who would you choose?

“Cristiano Ronaldo, definitely. Ronaldinho. Zinedine Zidane and in goal I would put Manuel Neuer.”