ElWriteBack recently spoke to Hakeem Araba about his rise from Non-League football to the Europa League.
Following the success of that article, Charlie Russell speaks to the former Dagenham & Redbridge striker about the greatest players he has played with.
Hakeem Araba is an English/Nigerian footballer who has made the journey from Non-League to one of Europe’s big leagues.
The striker currently plays for Falkenbergs FF in Sweden’s top division. Things haven’t always been the glitz and glamour of European football for Araba.
The talented powerhouse started his career at Peterborough United where he was sent on loan to Boston United.
Following his spell with The Pilgrims, Araba joined Dagenham and Redbridge in 2008. During his time with the Daggers, the forward was loaned out to Thurrock FC and Redbridge.
After a number of spells with Non-League sides including Bromley and Whitehawk, Araba made a decision which would change his career. The forward moved away from England in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since.
The powerful striker has a commanding presence on the pitch with great aerial ability in both boxes. He has made himself the focal point for attacks in the teams that he has played for. Alongside Araba’s power and pace comes the mobility needed in an all-round modern day number nine striker. – hakeemaraba.com
The former Peterborough youth graduate has played for AEK Kouklia, Ermis Aradippou FC and Panthrakikos FC as well as his current side Falkenbergs FF.
After playing with many players during his career I ask the forward about his ultimate XI.
For my dream XI I will be using a 4-3-3 formation.
GK: Otto Martler (Falkenbergs FF) – This guy was absolutely awesome last season and he made so many saves. He broke the record for the most saves in the league. He has amazing reflexes and is a top professional on and off the field.
RB: Rasmus Sjöstedt (Falkenbergs FF) – Rasmus is a very composed and calculated footballer, he is very consistent with how he plays in both attacking and defending. He’s not so vocal on the pitch but his actions show how good of a player he is.
CB: Sofyane Cherfa (Panthrakikos) – He is the definition of a white man can jump. He is a top athlete. Sofyane is aggressive and determined on the pitch. The first time I played against him was a battle but when I played with him I then understood how good he really is. Training everyday against him was a constant battle because he never wanted to lose a duel. He is very good at playing the ball out of the defence. I can definitely see why he started his career at Monaco.
CB: Pape M’Bow (Panthrakikos) – A monster, leader, and a composed, amazing athlete. He is definitely one of the smartest defenders I have come across. He makes the situation look easy. Sometimes I think he plays with the strikers because he’s so fast, he lets them get ahead and when he wants, he changes his pace to take the ball from them. He is a solid player and it was a constant struggle with him during training sessions. I was constantly learning off him as I wanted to try and beat him. I can definitely see why he was at Marseille for so long.
LB: Ivan Gomes Forbes (AEK Kouklia) – Ivan is an amazing athlete who is so fast and he still has the stamina to match it. He is so good on and off of the ball. I know I have put him at left back but I had to fit him in the back four somewhere because he can cover every position, including left back. I have not seen many people beat him in a one on one
CM: Nicolas Diguiny (Panthrakikos) – Nicolas is a wonderfully gifted player that I had the pleasure to train and play with. He is very good with both of his feet and he was an unselfish player. He could take corners with his left and right foot as well as scoring from 20-30 yards with both feet.
CM: Harlee Dean (Dagenham & Redbridge) – #Meathead… what a beast this guy is. I enjoyed playing at the Daggers with him for a short while before he went to Southampton but at that time he was still very good. He is a born leader on the pitch and he didn’t care who you were or where you played he’d have a go at you if you weren’t putting a good shift in. It’s no surprise that he’s captain at Brentford.
CM: Alexander Jakobsen (Falkenbergs FF) – The things this guy does are remarkable. I’ve seen him stand on the ball, nutmeg players five times in one training session but I’ve also seen him absolutely destroy the opponents in games. It’s like he’s toying with them while they’re chasing his shadow. There is no wonder he played for the PSV Youth Team. They call him the Danish Ronaldinho because he’s really that good of a player. It is a pleasure to be playing with him.
RW: Yannick Bolasie (Dagenham & Redbridge) – I remember he came to us on loan from Plymouth. He was on trial for around two weeks. In that two weeks, I’m telling you… he was complete madness. He did some tricks that I’ve never seen before. He was so direct in how he played. The older players were moaning at him saying that he needs to slow down with the tricks and pass the ball. His reply was so funny when I heard it, “You’re only saying that because you’re old and can’t get the ball off of me, I’m going make it to the top being me.” I respected that so much but it’s true.
ST: Igor (Panthrakikos) – A goal machine at his highest, he had so much experience and he taught me a lot about being a proper striker. When the ball came into the box he was alive and won a lot of penalties. He was so good in front of goal and top class player.
LW: Robert Stambolziev (AEK Kouklia) – I respected this guy so much. He signed for us when I was playing in Cyprus but he came here determined and hungry to play well. He always stayed after training to work on finishing all the time. He was on fire and he scored so many goals. He was also getting monthly accolades for his performances. A top professional player and now he’s playing for the best team in Australia.
Proof read by Adam Keal and Alan Johnson.