Exclusive Interview with Issam Jebali

On February 25th, JSoccer Magazine and Jsoccer.com (JS) interviewed Gamba Osaka's new Tunisian forward – Issam Jebali (IJ), who joined from the team from the Danish Superliga's Odense Boldklub – after his debut from the bench in the team's second game of the fledgling 2023 season. Here's what he had to say...


JS: Welcome to Japan... how is it so far?

IJ: Of course, the first thing I can say is that I am very happy to be here in Japan – it's a very nice place. It was my wish to join Gamba Osaka as soon as I heard of their interest, and I received an offer. I had been in Japan with the (Tunisia) national team and I like it here, so overall I think it will be a good experience.

JS: How have you found adapting to the style of Gamba?

IJ: Of course, there is still so much to know and learn about the team, the strategy and more and, so far, I was injured, so I have been training in a different way to the rest of the squad for three weeks, in order to regain fitness and be ready to play. Now I feel that I am getting used to the tactics and the Japanese way of playing, though I am not yet at 100%, this was my first game for three months – my last game was at the World Cup in late November – so... it's coming.

JS: How has the communication with other players been so far? Do you find it difficult?

IJ: No, not really. Gamba have done all they can to help me settle – a very good interpreter – with me all the way through training sessions and more - and many of the players speak some English, too. So we try... but, you know the language of football is easy... “Move right, move left, come back...” and I think with a little more time everything is going to be fine.

Year Team League Matches Cup Matches
App Goals App Goals
2015 IFK Värnamo 26 5 1 0
2016 IFK Värnamo 15 6 3 0
2016 IF Elfsborg 15 7 0 0
2017 IF Elfsborg 29 10 2 1
2018 IF Elfsborg 15 3 4 2
2018 Rosenborg 7 3 1 0
2018–19 Al-Wehda 13 3 1
2019–20 Odense Boldklub 24 3 1 0
2020–21 Odense Boldklub 30 10 2 1
2021–22 Odense Boldklub 7 1 0 0
2023 Gamba Osaka - - - -

 JS: You played at the World Cup with Tunisia, including an amazing victory against France. You were so close to making it out of the group stage. This tournament was right in the middle of theEuropean season. How has it been to come back from that? Perhaps a little more difficult – physically and mentally – than the usual summer tournaments?

IJ: As you say, for the World Cup there was so much motivation it's the best thing you can do as a player. It's been a long break since then, but joining a new club here with such amazing fans as we saw today, the motivation is still very high. There is a big expectation of me, from the fans, and all at the club which has helped make sure I am fully motivated, bringing me back to the peak. I want to make a name, create history with this club so, yes, indeed, the motivation is high! I know the fans have seen me in the World Cup and I want to work hard for them.

JS: You looked good when you came on in the 2nd half, definitely physically ready for it.

IJ: Yes, I have worked very hard to be ready for this, and the medical staff have taken very good care of me, also. I think I am getting close to peak performance and I can definitely say that for the next game I will be at 100%. I think it was the right decision by the manager today, he wanted to give me some minutes... it's getting better.

JS: You will get to play against Nassim Ben Khalifa – who is at Sanfrecce Hiroshima – another Tunisian in J.League. Do you know him personally?

IJ: I don't know him personally, but of course I have seen him in play and I did have a conversation with him, and also Kasper Junker (the Danish connection in use here). As a football player, you can always talk to other players with nationality or league connections, and those two have helped me with many things. It's good to get to know some new friends.

JS: A final question is about the Tunisian national team. There are some fine players in that squad and, when you see what Morocco did at the World Cup, do you feel that Tunisia can raise their level and make the next step?

IJ: I feel that our performance at the last World Cup – I can't say amazing, as we did not achieve the next round, which is what the Tunisian people wanted, of course – but seeing what Morocco did, they have raised the bar for African teams at the World Cup. For us Tunisians we are working very hard and I feel we have a solid squad and some continuity with the same coach, who has continued after the World Cup with us, so as a team, we know each other, we know our strengths, we know what we are good at, so I see a good future for the Tunisian national team.

JS: Thank you very much for your time.


Pictures ©JSoccer Magazine

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