Exclusive Interview: Assan Ceesay

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

(image source: The Point)

JR: You signed for FC Zurich in 2018. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as FC Zurich?'

AC: It was a big move for me to move to FC Zurich and I am so happy to be at the club. FC Zurich is a great and well-known club in Switzerland. I am here to give my best for the club. Sometimes, you arrive at a club with big expectations, at the start of my time here I was making substitute appearances as the team was also doing well in the Europa League at the time. This past year in particular I have been playing week in and week out. As a professional, you have to keep going, work hard and believe that your time will come again. It's important that you can capitalize on your moments on the pitch because I am part of a team that has great competition. I am looking forward to having a good season and score many goals in order to help the team.

JR: You had a loan spell at VfL Osnabrück in Germany. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?'

AC: Yes for sure, I have many good memories at VfL Osnabrück. Football is like that.  Everywhere you go, you learn and you experience and you take the positive things. It was a loan move that helped me a lot to develop, gain experience and learn new things - it helped me a lot. Everyone at the club was so nice. I also remember one bad moment when I received a red card and I was suspended for three games but that was not my intention and the club knows that. After the lock down came, we restarted and all was going well, I was playing week in and week out. I really enjoyed my time in Germany at VfL Osnabrück.

JR: You have been capped by your country of Gambia. How do you reflect on representing your country and what are your highlights and memories of playing international football?

AC: Playing international football is every professional player's dream and for me it was always a dream and honour to play for my country. I had a good run scoring in most of my country's games. We are working hard to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon next year, but it is important to stay focused in our upcoming games. The qualification would be good for us as a country and I am pleased to be helping my country to reach this goal.

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JR: You have accrued good experience at club and international level, could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?

AC: Yes, I played with Ezgjan Alioski at FC Lugano in Switzerland for example. He is a very good player, who is now playing for Leeds United in England - he has such great determination and hunger. Here at FC Zurich we have many good young players coming up and their level is slowly rising. I think that you will see in the future such players go on to have good careers. At international level, I played with Musa Barrow who is currently on loan at Bologna from Atalanta in Italy. I have been fortunate to play with good quality players who are doing well in their respective leagues during my career so far.

JR: I can imagine in your position as a striker that you have played against many difficult opponents so far in your career, could you say which opponents have stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?

AC: The toughest opponent I have ever faced so far in my career is Kalidou Koulibaly and I played against him when we played Napoli in the Europa League. He is so fast, physical and strong. He was very agile in that game and he gave me a tough time although I gave him a tough time too. But with his experience and quality I really do rate him among the best defenders in the world. He is certainly the best defender that I have ever faced and I learned a lot playing against him. I also played against Moroccan defender Medhi Benatia at international level and even though I scored in that game I remember Morocco being so good in the match in Gambia and the way that Medhi Benatia controlled and marshalled their defence made sure that we had a very difficult match.

JR: Finally Assan, could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?

AC: Yes, I have been fortunate to play and train under many good managers and coaches. At FC Lugano I played under Andrea Manzo and he was the one that gave me the opportunity to play for FC Lugano and move to Switzerland and he really believed in me. When I arrived at FC Zurich former Switzerland national team captain Ludovic Magnin was the manager and he was the one who brought me from FC Lugano. Andrea Manzo in particular gave me a lot of confidence and gave me all the tools I needed in order to develop and be a better player as a professional footballer. As time goes on maybe I will meet another coach or manager but the ones I have mentioned so far really motivated me and gave me the chance to express myself and give my best there out on the pitch.

James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.