Over the years, Kaduna State in Nigeria has been known to produce world-class athletes in the calibre of Musa Audu and Godday James who both won Bronze medals at the Athens 2004 Olympics, as well as Beijing 2008 Silver medallist – Franca Idoko, and now, Suraj Habib who was born and raised in Zaria, Kaduna State, looks set to uphold that rich tradition after being recruited into Making of Champions (MoC) Track Club in Lagos.
Like most athletes, Habib is a product of School Sports, switching from Football to Athletics in secondary school. Unlike most athletes however, he has taken his dream of becoming a Champion a step further by leaving the known for the unknown, saying goodbye to friends and family and relocating from Zaria to Lagos, believing that MoC has what it takes to launch him into the greatness he desires.
He said, “It was a big step relocating from Zaria to Lagos because since I was born, I have never been away from my family for more than a week. I found it very challenging because my family is a big one and everybody loves me. I’m very close to my mum and support her a lot, but I just said let me come here and see what I can make of myself because if I were to remain in Zaria, I may not have as much support to travel for competitions and so on like I’m experiencing here, so I had to leave home to chase my dreams.”
Habib first appeared on MoC’s radar after an Athletics Trial held in Kaduna in December 2017, and even though he wasn’t selected, he kept in touch with MoC because he was determined to join the club, and just like one that would not be denied, he kept putting in the work needed to improve and by extension, be selected by MoC.
His grit, determination and focus paid off after he ran a brilliant race at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League in Abuja in March, 2018, where he clocked a PB of 48.41s to win his heat, and then clocked 48.66s in the final. Habib recounts his experience thus:
“My first 49s was because of MoC, and after I ran the time, I contacted Mr. Bambo (Akani, MoC Founder/CEO), but I knew that MoC had many 49s runners then, so that was probably the reason why I wasn’t selected at the time. He told me to return home and try my best. From 49.9s, I ran 49.6s. He told me to train harder. I didn’t feel bad because I know that in Athletics, when you put in the work, you get the results.”
He added: “I improved my Personal Best (PB) to 49.06s and was so happy. I didn’t run it for myself or anybody; I ran it because of my need to join MoC. I knew that I had to prove myself. I wasn’t expecting to run 48s the day I did because all the people I ran with are my seniors. I didn’t have the confidence even though I felt that it was the last chance I had to run a good race in order to join MoC.
“When the gun went off, I found myself in front. I was asking myself ‘What is going on?’ With about 100m to go, I saw that there was no one beside me. When the clock stopped at 48.41s, I knew that I was good to go. This time around, I wasn’t even the one that called Mr. Bambo. He was out of the country at the time but he called to congratulate me, and that was how I found myself in MoC”.
Going forward, Habib is optimistic of his chances in Athletics, and hopes to represent Nigeria in the near future:
“The first major goal I want to achieve is to wear my country’s colours. That is when people will know that you’re ready. After wearing the country’s colours, I will make sure I chase some records including the National Record (NR). Everyone is talented, but you have to put in the work if you hope to succeed. Breaking records is my target”, he said.
Habib, who is ecstatic at being MoC’s first athlete from the North, said: “I feel very good and happy; for me it’s like making history because it will always be on record that I am MoC’s first athlete from the north.
“It is not an easy thing coming all the way from Kaduna, or let me say Zamfara, because that is my State of Origin. Where I come from in the North-West, Athletics is not really regarded as anything, so I have to salute myself because I know that by coming here, I have done something good.”