Ever wondered what the NCFC players do on game day to get themselves mentally and physically ready to perform?
Nazmi Albadawi, the NCFC captain in his seventh season as a professional footballer, takes us into the non-negotiable practices of the routine that helps him be at his best on the field.
The alarm goes off. For any football lover, Saturday morning means English Premier League. To start off his day, Naz tunes in to NBC Sports, hoping to get lucky and catch some action from Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Naz knows that sitting around all day is not the best for your muscles, and that’s why he goes through a light morning activation to awaken his nervous system.
He suggests “rolling out on a lacrosse ball and doing some stretching, pushups, and squats.” On warm days, he might take advantage of the apartment pool for some mobility exercises in the water.
The Albadawi’s Saturday brunch has a whole different flavor this year. Naz and his wife Yasmeen now have the privilege to sit at the table with Nadal, their four-month-old baby who officially qualifies as the cutest NCFC supporter.
It’s nap time, for both Nadal and Naz. It’s the last chance for the NCFC captain to relax before he begins to think entirely about the game.
Four hours before kickoff is indicated by most soccer nutritionists as the perfect time to fuel up.
“My pregame meal is pretty simple,” says Naz. “Rice, chicken, and vegetables.” Nothing too fancy, just a combination of the essential nutrients that a soccer player needs to get ready to run for 90 minutes: carbohydrates, protein, and well, a bunch of healthy things coming from veggies.
Naz starts putting on his game face. He turns to YouTube, where he types up “Zinedine Zidane.” One of the greatest attacking midfielder in football history, Zidane is the indisputable source of inspiration for Naz’s game.
“How good he was on the ball, how he got his teammates involved, and how humble he was,” Naz says in a tone of admiration were the things he admired of the French maestro. His favorite video is “Zidane vs Brazil,” a clip from the unforgettable 2006 World Cup quarter-final game in which Zidane took the Brazilian defense to school.
Up next on Naz’s inspirational sources are the America's Got Talent golden buzzers, the videos of those auditioners that, against all odds, killed it on the frightening stage of the famous talent show. The feeling of seeing underdogs perform at that level allows Naz to build up positive energy for his game.
An hour and a half before the curtain goes up, Naz arrives at the locker room. There, he finds his #10 jersey hanging in his locker, as well as shorts and socks carefully folded on his chair. On top of them lies the captain armband, an old friend that Naz has rediscovered after three years. (In case you didn’t know, Naz was the NCFC captain during the 2017 NASL season.)
While getting dressed, Naz makes himself a cup of English Breakfast tea, plugs in his earbuds, and collects good vibes, courtesy of Drake.
Naz grabs a banana from the locker room table and, together with his teammate and vice-captain Steven Miller, heads out to the field for warm ups. One bite at a time, he eats up his fruit snack as he walks through the tunnel that opens up on the green turf of WakeMed.
You might have noticed Naz standing by himself for a few seconds after the coin toss. With his eyes closed, Naz opens his palms toward the sky, sightly bends his head forward, and quietly recites the Al Fatiha, a Muslim prayer similar to the Lord’s Prayer for Christians.
“I ask god to protect me during the game and keep me injury-free,” he says.
He then brings the boys into a huddle for a quick motivational speech. To the captain cry of “One, two, three!”, the team lets out a loud “Win!”
It’s showtime. Aware that he has taken care of all the details, Naz has got nothing left to do but enjoy his time on the field.
Naz stresses the importance for professional athletes to have a pregame routine. He explains that getting into a healthy rhythm allows his mind to concentrate entirely on his performance on the field.
“On game day, you know exactly what you’re doing, there’s not a lot of change,” Naz explains. As a result, he says, “you only focus on the game.”
Hopefully, it won’t be too long until we all experience another game day. For now, keep staying healthy! And don’t forget to email email@example.com with suggestions for future blog posts.