Libyan international Mo Bettamer joined on a free transfer off the back of a frustrating spell at Barnet where his contract was mutually terminated even though he had a good goal record before joining the Bees.
Bettamer scored six goals in 15 appearances for Braintree Town and bagged an impressive 29 goals in all competitions for Staines Town in the 2017/18 season. Mo has also proved his versatility playing as a left-winger when he is primarily a centre-forward.
Mo discusses his time at Barnet, his goalscoring form, international career with Libya, life at Aldershot Town, spells at Braintree and Staines and some interesting hobbies too.
From the beginning, where did football start for you?
“My Dad used to take me to my local park which was Regent’s Park. We used to play football and there was always young kids around to play with as well.
“I used to do one-on-ones, practise headers, passing and shooting. At the age of 10, I joined my first team who were a local team called London Tigers. They were based in Central London and playing with them was how it all started for me.
“That was my first experience playing for a football team.”
How was your journey going into professional football from when you played with the London Tigers?
“I played in the London Tiger’s first team when I was about 15. That was my first bit of adult football and from there, I went to a college that was connected to Watford. I went there and scored 14 goals in 10 games.
“The head scout at Watford watched me and he was the one that tried to get me towards a professional contract when I was 17.
“I didn’t manage to get a professional contract but I played with the likes of Britt Assombalonga who is now at Middlesbrough and Gavin Massey who is at Wigan Athletic. They were the big players who were seen as some of the best players.
“I was playing out wide at the time and they tried to turn me into a striker. It was a good experience because I got into a routine of playing full-time football. It was a one-year scholarship that I really enjoyed.
“The following year, I joined Hayes & Yeading who were in the Conference Premier at the time. I was 18 and I wasn’t getting many appearances for them so I joined Hampton & Richmond and I got more game time over there.
“I got nine or 10 goals for Hampton and I was in an out of the first team. Some games I’d start and some I was on the bench. At that stage, I was learning the non-league game because I thought I would be at a League One or League Two club after being at Watford.
“It wasn’t as easy as people think. Some players expect to be in the Premier League after the academy or straight into the Football League. Sometimes you’ve got to be more realistic and see if that is the best route for you.
“Academy football is nothing like men’s football regardless of whether it’s non-league football or not.”
How was life down at Barnet because we know it didn’t work out the best for you there?
“When I was at Staines, I scored 29 goals and I got invited to Stevenage where I had a pre-contract agreed. Unfortunately, just before the season started, the contract hadn’t been signed and at that time I had a few clubs that wanted me.
“I joined Braintree instead and I had a good spell over there. The manager over there gave me a lot of confidence and I scored six goals in about 15-16 games. I had a few offers around me after that and I signed for Salford City.
“I went to Manchester on a Tuesday and I trained with them. On a Wednesday, we had a day off so I came back to London and there were a lot of circumstances with family because I was moving to Manchester which is a few hours away from them.
“My Mrs was pregnant at the time and I ended up joining Barnet instead. It was 20 minutes away from me so it was much more convenient. John Still was the manager then and I played the first few games and Still decided to retire.
“I thought it would still be ok because the assistant was Darren Currie who was promoted to the manager of Barnet. I thought the way he wanted to play would suit the way that I played. However, that wasn’t the case and I barely played.
“I would try to keep myself motivated and do really well in training but it wasn’t happening for me. I went to Welling on loan and it started to become like a job instead of a passion. I loved playing football and to get paid for it is a blessing but when you’re not playing, it feels like you’re just coming in and training and not doing much else.
“Even getting out on loan was really hard for me. Certain feelings from the club were a little harsh on me and speaking to Darren, I could feel I was no longer wanted at Barnet even though that’s not exactly what he was saying.
“I still had hope because that’s the sort of person I am. I don’t like to give up too easily and I scored a few goals at Welling to get my confidence back. We lost in a play-off final against Woking and I came back in the pre-season because I still had a year left on my contract.
“The reasons Barnet gave to me for not wanting me were clearly not just about my football and I felt like they wanted to bring someone else in that they thought could do a better job. Every pre-season game, I’d get a goal or assist but it didn’t seem to be enough for them.”
How did the move to Aldershot Town come about after Barnet?
“There was a decision that I had to make. I could choose to go to Aldershot Town and get more game time or fight for my place in the team at Barnet. I spoke to Blackers (David Blackmore) and he mentioned the possibility of me going to Aldershot.
“Me being me, I just wanted to play football and joining Aldershot Town was a very easy decision for me to make. It took a while for me to come but I ended up speaking to the chairman to agree on terminating my contract and agreeing to join Aldershot Town.
“From there, it was just about getting the match time and getting fit. I can score a lot of goals at this level when I’m on my game and that’s what people want. I think I can score more goals than I have but when the chances come to me I believe that the goals will just keep coming.”
You’re now a Libyan international. Talk to me about what you went through to get to that stage of representing your country?
“When I left Hampton & Richmond, I decided to go back abroad and play at home in Libya. I played with one of the big sides over there and we qualified for the African Champions League.
“We were playing games all over Africa. We visited countries that I never thought I would visit but it was such an amazing experience. We made it to the quarter-finals of the African Champions League and from those performances, I ended up in the Libya u23s.
“They always knew about me so that’s why they gave me the call to join the team over there. My performances got me called up to the Olympic team and it all started from there.
“From my recent performances with Aldershot Town, I would’ve been called up for the international break if it wasn’t for the Coronavirus right now. It would’ve been great to have been involved in the African Cup of Nations Qualifiers.”
You’ve scored a lot of important goals for Aldershot Town this season. Are your expectations for this season the same as next season? What are your aims when football returns?
“My expectations will be higher because I want to be in and around the top goalscorer list. I set myself high expectations and for the last several games this season, I set myself personal goals that I want to achieve before the season ended.
“I believe in my ability. If someone had told me before the season started that I would be at Aldershot Town getting back amongst the goals then I wouldn’t have believed them. Right now, I’m enjoying my football and I even took a pay cut to come here because I enjoy my football so much and I just wanted to play.
“It was a risk but it was certainly worth taking. I’ve really enjoyed my time here at Aldershot and my expectation will be even higher for next season because I’ll be able to have a good pre-season with the club which is something I missed out on when I joined.
“I believe that the club is building something and we’ve got a young squad too. The players that we have are good and the additions that we’ll make will be great for us. I think we can compete and maybe one day fight for the play-off areas because why not in this league.”
The Aldershot Town fans even have their own chant for you now. How does it feel stepping out onto the pitch and hearing ‘Don’t you know Bettamer, Mohamed Bettamer!?’
“It’s quite legendary. Hearing my name being called in the stands, it gives me a big push and a bit of a confidence boost.
“Not everything will go right on the football pitch and we have to handle it but the crowd certainly do help me and the guys. I’ll always say to something that I can get the next one. Get the next pass, shot or cross right and just keep going.
“When you hear those fans singing your name, it looks like they’re enjoying themselves and looking forward to the game. Hopefully, my recent performances put a smile on the fans’ faces and show the fans that I’ve worked really hard for them.”
Are there any hobbies or interests that Aldershot Town fans don’t know you get up to?
“I have a son now so I’m with him quite a bit. I like to play tennis with my friends. I think if I didn’t play football then I would certainly be into tennis professionally maybe.
“With the Coronavirus, I’m obviously at home quite a bit now so I like to play a bit of Playstation and go online with my friends. I can be quite competitive on there but I’m still keeping up with my training routines that we’ve been set whilst at home.
“We have to make sure that we stay as fit as we can whilst we’re at home. I like my table tennis too but we don’t seem to have table tennis sets at the ground so I will definitely be mentioning it to someone at the football club that could get it set up.”