Vandrezzer FC’s number 10, Saviour Isaac’s name has been hugging the sports headlines all over the country and continent after the celebrated 40 yard belter he scored on Friday, March 11, 2022 against Adoration FC in the Nigeria National League.
In this chat with VFCTV, the 20 year old former U-17 national team invitee revealed he had scored similar goals in the past, and would be delighted if the one for VFC, which is the first recognized one, is accorded the status of a Puskas award nominee.
Deco, as he is fondly called by his teammates, went back in time to discuss his background, national team experience, his aspirations, and the fact that the team’s biggest motivation these days is the club President dancing on the stands.
Saviour, let’s know your background?
Saviour Isaac is my name. I am from Ikot Ebikpo in ONNA Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. I was born and grew up in Eket LGA and my parents are Isaac Johnson and Mercy Johnson.
When did you start taking football seriously?
I started playing from my primary school days, it wasn’t really serious, it was just to have fun with. When I began to be serious was when the state government started coming to my school to take permission on my behalf to be involved in school games then I thought I could just take good advantage of the opportunity and begin to be serious.
Did people think you were good enough?
Yes, few people told me that I am really good at it and hope I could get to the highest level in the game. I think that was a lot of motivation for me, it was the more reason I was serious with playing football but the people that encouraged me most were my parents. You know it was very hard to see parents who encouraged their children to play football, instead, if you are caught going to the field you will be punished severely for that. But, my two parents were very encouraging, they told me that I can really do well in the game. Sometimes when my parents went out, people talked about me and when they received good comments like that, they will come back to tell me that this person said he saw me playing, “I think this is your thing, you don’t have to be discouraged keep on doing it” my mom and dad kept saying.
Apart from your parents, who were your idols growing up?
Growing up, the person I saw most of his clips was Jay Jay Okocha, because he was playing more of entertaining football. People really talked about him, he was a player everybody looked up to, he is one of the football players I watched most of his clips and learned a few things from, so, I think Okocha was my idol.
Another person I liked so much was Andreas Iniesta. He was very creative, although he never managed to score a lot of goals but scored some very important goals in his career. He (Iniesta) made football look easy, I love stuff like that, I love it when he meanders between three to four people, he just made it look as if nothing is really there. I also liked Phillipe Coutinho because of his scoring abilities. He scored so many long range goals especially when he was at Liverpool. And ofcourse former Portugal and Barcelona Deco, who I’m nicknamed after.
It is said you played a lot of street football. So how did street football shape you before becoming a pro?
I played a lot of street football growing up. I was very little, we had huge guys where I used to play with. I did things that people were amazed and asked who I was, so little playing in the midst of big guys. That is what made me realize that size does not matter in football, if I can play with these guys here, then I can play any size. That really helped me a lot, right now, there are huge guys I am playing among them, I really do not look at their sizes, I will just do whatever I have to do.
So how did you start playing professional football?
My first club was Ibom Youth Football Club. One of the coaches saw me play youth football, when he became head coach, he invited me to move from Eket to Uyo to join the club. I agreed and discussed my parents, they raised some money for me, I spoke with my grassroot coach (Daniel Japhet), he made some arrangements for my accommodation and when I joined, I was the youngest and the smallest. I think there were doubts, people asked if I will be able to play with the big guys, but it happened that I was a regular in the team, and wore the number 10 jersey which was assigned to me by the Commissioner of Sports.
When I left Ibom Youth, I had an invitation to Lagos to play for Real Sapphire, I was a regular in the team but I felt like nothing was really happening there. I moved to Youth Sports Management in Ikorodu and left there back to Akwa Ibom State when I was re-invited back to Ibom Youth. I had my trials with the club, but two weeks to the resumption of the league, I returned to Lagos because I wanted to be really prepared for an invitation I got for the National U-17 in 2018. I left Uyo on the 23rd of April for the national U17 camp, there, I started making moves, I went for the qualifiers, when I returned, I was promoted to the U20, after there I came back to join Stationery Stores. I played few games with Stores, the club owner wanted to keep me, but I was in love with Vandrezzer.
On the national team and not making the cut to play in any competition, what was responsible for that and how did it make you feel?
I understood what happened. Basically, the reason was because I was the least player there, not by performance, but we had guys who were coming from the Nigeria Professional Football League, there were also some other guys who came from Europe, the likes of Aremu Afeez, Bashiru who was playing for Man City, the other one was playing for Bodo Glimt in Norway, Jaden Bennet came from Watford, all of them were top guys, people that I admire. When some things were explained to me, I had to manage the situation but it was a very good experience because if I have any call up to the national team now, it will not be strange to me anymore, I am already used to the system.
How did you join Vandrezzer FC?
Firstly, I knew Vandrezzer FC from the start, I had a lot of friends who were playing for the club. Vandrezzer was known for playing good football and I love good football, few of them spoke with me and told me that I have to leave the academy I was playing for to join a side that will be competing every weekend, some few other people spoke to me too, so, I considered that and the then interim coach, Alfred Madaki spoke to me because he has known me for a very long time, I told him I will really consider coming to Vandrezzer to join the boys, already, I was friends with a lot of the players. I knew it would be easy for me to blend in. The likes of Lawrence Effiong, Iron Maestro (Anietie Uko), Ekerete Udom and Samuel Edoho who is the vice-captain, all of them spoke with me telling me to join the club because we’ve been playing together since we were much younger, so, we knew ourselves already.
That’s why when I came to the team, it was not a problem for me to adapt because I knew most of the players. When I joined, the love was massive, from the management to the players, it was as if I was part of the team for years, they were telling me to keep my head down, have the freedom to do whatever I want to do on the pitch.
How has the journey been so far with Vandrezzer FC?
It’s a nice one. I am happy to be part of the family, I think this is one of the biggest platforms that has ever happen in Nigeria, I’ve not seen anything like this in Nigeria, although a lot of people have made the attempt to bring standards like this but at the end of the day, it won’t even last up to a year or so or maybe after a year it will crash. But Vandrezzer has been consistent in keeping up to the standard, they are even doing better than they started, it is very encouraging, the journey has been smooth so far.
Do you think VFC has the potential to help you fulfill your footballing dream?
Yes, I am 100% sure that they have what it takes to push me to any level that I desire. I am not really bothered about that, I just keep doing what I feel and think is right for me to do and whenever I am called upon in training and in matches, I keep the best behaviour.
Now, let’s talk about that goal you scored against Adoration FC
I feel good that after few years of scoring that same goal which was in the national team camp, unfortunately I can’t get a clip of that, in the national team camp, videos are not allowed and you can’t take pictures, it’s unfortunate that I don’t have that clip but I have scored two to three of such goals, I scored one in 2018 in the Lagos State FA Cup against my former team (Real Sapphires), that was the best goal of that competition. After the game I boarded a bus and headed back to the national team camp.
How do you manage to score such a goal more than once?
Sometimes I don’t really have plans to do it but it depends on the situation. When I notice the goalkeeper likes coming out of his line, I just hope I have a situation where the ball will be on the volley or rolling on the pitch so that I can take a chance. Most of the time, I make sure I do it very well because if I make an attempt and it doesn’t hit the back of the net then I think the keeper won’t go off his line again and will know that there is someone who has this kind of idea. So, I try as much as possible that my first attempt hits the back of the net.
Do you think the goal should be considered for a Puskas award?
If it can get to that level, then, I will be glad. I’m just happy that the goal is all over the place and people are really talking about it. I've got a lot of messages from people I don’t even know and from club sides, on Instagram and other social media pages. If it can get to the level of Puskas, even if I don’t win it, for me to be recognized, that will really give me the upper hand. It is for God to do it, whatever is God’s plan, it will surely happen.
What does such a goal do to your confidence as a player?
That goal really boosted my confidence, because at some point, I think there were some kind of pressure, we dropped some points especially at home, we lost in the last away game, so, coming back to our home ground to win and scoring such a goal, that boosted not just my confidence level but the team’s confidence level for our upcoming game in Warri against J’Atete. I think this is a really confidence booster for the club.
You’ve scored two goals already this season, what will be your personal target for VFC this season?
I feel I’ve not done my best, scoring two goals in six games. Most times you are told to be more creative and leave the scoring for the attackers but I feel it is my duty to not just create chances for others to score but to score as well. The few guys that I know who have played in my position have scored a lot of goals and I would really like to be above them in goalscoring, not just creating. I l