"We'll see where my path takes me through football" - an interview with Yousef Mustafa

Balázs Gabay | 29.04.2024.
After more than 20 years, the BEAC football team has an international student again, Yousef Mustafa, who intends to obtain a university degree and play football in Hungary in a semi-professional or professional status. The 20-year-old Jordanian striker talked to us about positive cultural shocks, football academies in Amman, being selected for the U16 national team, BEAC, and the Faculty of Informatics at ELTE.

You arrived in Hungary in September 2022, where you had never been before. Why did Budapest become your destination?

After finishing high school in Jordan, I decided that I wanted to go abroad. Hungary was among the destinations because there are very good scholarship opportunities here, and compared to Jordan, this country offers way more opportunities. Germany was also among my options; I read a lot about it online.

Why didn't you pick Germany instead of Hungary?

There were also administrative reasons, and the more I read about it, I started to really like Budapest. It was also important for me to find a university where I could continue playing football while studying.

Did you have more in-depth knowledge about Hungary and Budapest, did you have any acquaintances living here, or did you dive into the unknown?

I didn't have any acquaintances in the country, but I watched a lot of informative videos about the country, collected the answers I needed most and went through ELTE’s website thoroughly. I am quite the planner; before I delve into anything I gather all the information. I also checked if ELTE had a football team, and that's how I found BEAC.

You wouldn't have enrolled in a university without a football team?

No, that would have been a dealbreaker.

You were born in Amman and started playing football there, right?

Yes, I lived in the capital of Jordan until September 2022 when I arrived in Budapest. My family is as crazy about football as the average Jordanians. I've been playing football since I was 8, I went through many academies at home until I was 14-15 years old. I attended FISA (French International Sports Academy), Amman Elite, and played at the academy of a professional club, Al Ahli Club, between the ages of 15 and 17. At that time, I was invited to the youth national team, to the U16.

What does a football academy look like in Amman, is it a boarding institution?

I didn't have to move in because I lived close to the sports complex. When I was in the academy everything revolved around football; we trained six days a week, with matches on the weekends.

We don't know much about the Jordanian league in Hungary, how strong is it?

Compared to, let’s say, Israel, it's weaker. For example, Maccabi Haifa from Israel played in the Europa League group stage and then in the Conference League. The Jordanian teams play in the AFC Champions League. In the Jordanian Premier League, there are two big teams, Al Wehdat and Al Faisaly, and my former team, Al Ahli, is also among the best. Generally, the title winner is to be found among them.

Have you always played as a striker?


And you also managed your studies at school.

I did well in my studies; I graduated from high school at the age of 18. We didn't need to pick a specialization, but I was interested in computer science, so I delved into it. It was very difficult to study a lot and play football at the same time, so I played less in the last season and focused on passing my exams with good results so I could go to university. Then the scholarship opportunity in Budapest came and I didn't hesitate.

How do you like ELTE, and what is Budapest like in general?

Budapest is a very, very good place, completely different from what I was used to in Amman. I also like the university; I'm studying to be a computer scientist, we study and develop algorithms. And of course, I really like BEAC too. My situation is a bit special because I'm the only one in the team who doesn't speak Hungarian.

Since the late 1990s, BEAC hasn't had an international student in the team; back then, an African guy joined the team.

Yes, they said it's been a long time since they had a foreign member. My teammates, the coach, the staff were extremely open and welcoming when I arrived, and since then, everyone has been very friendly with me. I also really like the city, and I've started learning Hungarian, but it's a very difficult language, I need a lot of practice. I'm really motivated; I also attend Hungarian language classes. Sometimes I already understand parts of what I hear from Hungarian guys at university. By the time I finish university I want to be able to speak Hungarian too.

How do you manage during training sessions and matches; do you receive instructions in Hungarian?

When I started playing for BEAC we had a different coach. His name was János, and he didn't speak English, so my teammates translated everything for me into English. Now Attila is our coach, and everything is much easier with him because he speaks English very well. He even speaks English only for my sake in front of the whole team, which is a great honour. I already understand some tactical instructions in Hungarian during training.

What are your strengths and weaknesses on the field?

I can shoot accurately and strongly mostly with my right foot. My left foot is my weakness I need to improve it so I have separate training sessions for that. My speed is also quite good. However, I need to improve my spatial awareness to better cover areas. I prefer to start from the wings because there's more space, but I have no problem playing as a centre-forward if Attila puts me there. I also enjoy one-on-one duels; I'm good at them.

You currently play as a center forward, or rather as a false nine?

At BEAC, we play with two strikers, and although I play in the number 9 position, I'm the one who drops back more often for balls, opens up space, and then moves towards the goal, so this is already the role of a false nine.

You mentioned significant differences between Amman and Budapest. What were your biggest cultural shocks after arriving in Hungary?

You should know that when I came here in 2022, it was the first time I had ever been to Europe. Since then I've been to Austria and Serbia too. People in the Middle East are much more conservative in every way compared to Hungary. For example women show much less of themselves than here. Also women and men who are not related or spouses rarely interact often avoid contact altogether. But this is more because of religion than culture, and with time, there are also changes in this regard.

You're quite open aren't you?

Yes, that's how I was raised, so I don't get a culture shock from what I see here in Budapest and I can imagine myself here in a few years. I had cultural shocks, of course, but only in positive ones. I've only had a few minor discomforts. For example, once late at night, the ticket inspector asked for my pass on public transport, then asked me to show my student ID. But he didn't speak English, so it took us about 10 minutes to understand each other, but eventually, the situation was resolved. There was another funny incident: unfortunately, I broke my hand in the first match of this season. That's less humorous, but it was funny when the doctor at Szent János Hospital tried to communicate with me using Google Translate and nonsense texts appeared on his phone. Fortunately, someone came who spoke English, so I understood what he was saying.

Have you encountered any unexpected things or peculiarities in everyday life?

It's interesting to me that although we often use credit cards at home, in Hungary, you can pay digitally almost everywhere I hardly carry cash with me. Public transportation is simply wonderful in Budapest, efficient and reliable, and the student tickets and passes are relatively cheap. I hardly had to take a taxi since I've moved here except to the airport. At home, the situation is completely different; public transportation is not very good, and if you have to travel longer distances, you must have a car.

In a short interview you gave to BEAC last year, you said: "here I can gain experiences that wouldn't have been possible in Jordan." What did you mean?

For example the social life that awaited me here in Budapest. I meet many foreigners—especially at university—who come from all over the world. Central Asians, Colombians, Argentinians. Argentinian buddies are the most common. Through them, I can get to know completely new cultures, which would not have been possible in Amman. We talk a lot, cook each other foods from our home countries. I've been longing for this, a different, more vibrant life, from which you can learn a lot.

Do you live alone?

I was alone during the first year; I had to cook for myself, do the shopping and cleaning so I got a taste of adult life. Then my brother arrived last fall we are living together now.

You also said in the quoted BEAC interview that you didn't come just for studying; you'll see where football takes you.

As long as I can remember, my dream has been to become a football player. Even as a little kid I was driven by that dream. Although I know that this sport can be difficult, an injury can end your career. That's why studying is as important to me as football so I have something to fall back on. I'm trying to find a balance between playing football and university.

You're 20 years old; is it possible that you'll play professionally or semi-professionally somewhere?

I already trained with the professional adult team at Al Ahli in Jordan; I just didn't step onto the field. I had to focus on exams, so football took a back seat. But I was close to playing for the first team. Those I played with in the youth teams at the age of 16-17 are now playing among the adults, so this would likely have been my path too. In Hungary, my goal is specifically to play in a higher-level league, maybe the third, second division, or even higher.

But training with BEAC and playing in BLASZ II on weekends isn't enough, is it?

No, and I discussed this with our coach. We have two training sessions with the team per week that is definitely not enough for me despite our great training sessions. They’re much better than those done by our previous coach. Attila gives feedback to me, to us constantly, which is extremely important; I translate and read everything he writes. But since I am consciously preparing to step up to a higher level, there were times when I trained twice a day, but that was too much. Now I go to conditioning training in the gym and technical development sessions.

How do you find the team?

Our players do everything they can on the field, and they motivate me too. Sometimes this doesn't show in the results; we have work to do on the final passes, scoring goals, but if we simply look at the quality of our game, it shows that we're doing good work. The guys have different motivations than me, I often stay after training to practice more.

What's next after you graduate from university; what do you want to do?

I'll be 22-23 years old when I graduate and I don't see in detail where I'm going next. Right now, I'm just focusing on finishing my degree and playing football so I can improve and then move forward. As I mentioned, I have to somehow balance these two goals. We'll see where my path takes me through football.

Source: BEAC