National defender Radanfah Abu Bakr might walk into a local supermarket in Port-of-Spain and despite his imposing figure, standing at six feet, four inches, he may hardly have heads turning. But thousands of miles away in Ust-Kamenogrosk, Kazakhstan, it’s a totally different picture for the former Caledonia AIA player.

Walking through the streets of Tallinn last weekend while on duty with the national team, Abu Bakr and some of his team-mates were an obvious attraction to the locals. Several wanted to meet him and quite a few also wanted photos. Abu Bakr says he experiences that every time he steps out in Ust-Kamenogrosk where he plays for FC Vostok.

Ust-Kamenogorsk, with a population of just over 300,000 is the administrative centre of the East Kazakhstan Province of Kazakhstan.
“The locals are friendly and seem to be intrigued more than any thing else by foreigners like myself and my teammates from Guyana, Gambia and Senegal,” Abu Bakr said.

“The boldface stares from the locals are sometimes uncomfortable but there’s nothing malicious behind them, and we’ve become accustomed to it. We all set aside time for photos when we’re out in public. As long as one person breaks the ice, the requests just keep coming and they swarm us, like if we in the supermarket or local store, for instance.”

Abu Bakr’s game has progressed since he last played for T&T back in 2009. He knows there is stiff competition for the centreback position in the T&T side with Seon Power, Carlyle Mitchell and Daneil Cyrus also being contenders.

“I’ve matured as a player and person since my last T&T appearance in 2009. Among other things, my temperament versus opponents and in atmospheres like the ones we faced in these two games in Bucharest and Tallinn has gotten better.”

Commenting on the football in Kazakhstan, the former Queen’s Royal College student said: “The league is pretty decent. A few teams are fairly robust and direct, but everyone tries to play attractive football. We’re a modest team and have been punching above our weight all season. We’re good at home and currently mid-table, climbing after a rough start.”