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  • Billy Wooldridge

Enfield Town's Muhammadu Faal: Facing racism in Italy at 18, signing for Bolton and his future goals

The name Muhammadu Faal will be on the scouting list of a number of football league sides this summer after the Isthmian Premier Division striker’s stellar season at Enfield Town, scoring 33 league goals as his side aim for promotion.

However, it’s not been an easy journey for Faal, who has had to face leaving home at 18, racial discrimination, injury and much more along the way.

Growing up in London, Faal remembers where football began for him, “my earliest memory of kicking ball would be from the estate of Stamford Hill, we have a cage and that’s where all of the kids go.”

“Around those times it was where all the gangsters used to chill, so it wasn’t until seven or eight when we properly went and played at the cage, but before that it was outside the block,” Faal said.

At the age of 16, Faal attended Enfield college which offered the PASE programme allowing students to play football and study at the same time. “I signed up for that and met the coach who’s my assistant at Enfield Town now, Mario Noto,” said Faal.

“I worked with him for a year and he was like ‘you’ve got something special here.’ I hadn’t really invested everything into football because I had become quite disillusioned with it. Prior to the programme I had so many trials, people telling me I’m too skinny, giving me excuses why they couldn’t sign me.”

After a year at the PASE programme, Faal moved up into the elite scheme, an academy style set-up for players with a chance of taking their next step towards becoming a professional.

“That was a great experience, I spent one year there and then left. I’d say it helped me re-invigorate my love for football and rediscover who I am on the pitch.”

Faal’s next big step in his career came in the summer of 2015, when a move to Italy became a possibility. An agent Faal was playing for at the time said, “I’ve got an opportunity for you in Italy would you be up for it?”

“I was like 100% but my dad wasn’t really on board with it,” said Faal “so I spent a few months trying to convince him and I eventually went out in August.”

“My dad said to me ‘if you don’t sign there you’re going to university, so it was either or. But I was really lucky, I went out there and I think they wanted to sign me within two to three days,” said Faal.

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The club Faal signed for was Serie C side L’Aquila, who are currently in the fourth tier of Italian football.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the striker after making his first team debut in his first season, “the second season wasn’t great. I had an injury for seven months so hardly played and obviously went through some racism,” said Faal.

Italian football has something of a reputation for racism. For Faal, this was a new experience, “I’m a London boy and I’m thinking ‘Wow, I’m not used to this’, so I dealt with it like a London boy.”

“But as time went on I learnt that I could educate these people. There are some who are ignorant but there are also some who are willing to understand, so I did a bit of both. Those who were ignorant I wasn’t friends with them and that was that. But the people who were willing to learn I was good friends with, kept educating them and they were alright,” said Faal.

“It was definitely a great learning experience and it shaped my career for who I am right now. Without that experience, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Faal’s move back to England came in 2017 after two years in Italy, “I just wasn’t happy, I was going through some things with my injury and purely not being happy there, so decided to come back early,” Faal said.

The striker had spells at both Dulwich Hamlet and Kingstonian before moving to Enfield Town in December 2018. It all started off well for the then 21-year-old.

“I played five and scored three”, said Faal, “but then I broke my foot and was out for the rest of the season.”

“Originally it was tough, I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me but it did. I’m quite religious and I think everything happens for a reason and God did it for a reason, so I chose to see it as something that needed to happen,” said Faal.

When Faal returned to full fitness in August 2019, the striker went on a mesmerizing run, scoring 24 goals in 25 games, earning him a move to Bolton Wanderers the following January.

“It was amazing, at the time. It was a dream come true because I’ve worked my whole life just to get that professional contract. It was all about getting there and to finally achieve one of my life goals meant the world to me,” Faal said.

However, Faal only spent a year and a half at Bolton, before being released, having only had the opportunity to make two appearances for The Trotters.

“I’m grateful for the lessons I learnt from it, the more I look at it the more I realise that there are loads of other players who go through what I went through. Being unfairly treated or not being given the chance to show what they can do”, said Faal.

“It happens and I thank God that I went through that early, learning how the game is. They say it’s the beautiful game--but it can be quite ugly sometimes.”

After being without a club for a few months through the summer of 2021, Faal chose to move back to the club where his first big break came, Enfield Town.

“It’s really good, I feel all the love from the fans and coaching staff. Even the players I feel love from. For me it’s great. It can only help your game and help you be comfortable and show your best. I love the club,” Faal said.

Faal’s love for Enfield Town has been clear to see on the pitch this season. He has scored an impressive 33 goals in the league as Enfield head for the end of season play-offs for the chance to move into the National League South next season.

“The mentality is to go and win it all, it’s definitely to put Enfield back, to go out and give our best. I know the boys will be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that this club gets promoted,” said Faal.

With the form that Faal has shown this season, the possibility of getting another move back into the football league seems good and the high-flying striker is ready to make the most of his second chance when it comes.

“’Staying ready so I don’t have to get ready’, I think there’s beauty in that line because if you’re always ready and prepared, then I feel like you’ll always stand a good chance of fulfilling what you want to do,” said Faal.

“I’m just happy that I’ve got another opportunity to show what I can do next season, and hopefully with that platform I can show that I can play a much higher level that I am right now.”

Faal is the perfect example that in football, big risks and a positive attitude in the face of adversity can lead to even bigger rewards, “It comes from the desire to be a professional, it’s do or die, if you don’t do this then that’s it.”

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