–‘China Product’ talks tough ahead race for Gabon
Not a single Nigerian fan gave him a chance when he was invited to the Super Eagles for the last Nations Cup qualifiers.
But after some spectacularly taken goals, coupled with some silky skills, the ebullient forward of the Chinese Super League side, Guangzhou R&F has warmed himself into the hearts of not a few Nigerians…
In this interview the former Shooting Stars forward speaks on his club experiences, Super Eagles and AFCON 2017 race… Interview by DAVID MESHIOYE:
It must be a huge relief for you and your super Eagles teammates now that Stephen Keshi is back in charge again.
Yes, it is a thing of joy for me and some of my teammates. I was worried that nothing was forthcoming on his contract, but it is a huge relief for us and the entire team because it simply means we can now get back to serious business and win the hearts of Nigerians again, after missing out of the last AFCON.
Do you think continuity is key to Super Eagles success?
Yeah, most of the players see Keshi as a father and a good leader with vision. That is why I am happy that he is back as our coach. I think NFF has done well to retain him. It mean they are thinking in the right direction because bringing in a new person now might be counterproductive and that might affect our preparations for AFCON qualifiers which come up in June.
For you, it won’t be out of place to say you are desperate to play in your first AFCON and hopefully win it just like Onazi, Efe etc.
It is my dream to play in Africa’s most prestigious competition. It was a huge disappointment that I missed out of the last one in Equatorial Guinea; that would have been my first but I believe every disappointment is a blessing in disguise. I am ready to make it up this time around by making sure I give my best to help Super Eagles qualify for AFCON 2017 in Gabon. There is time for everyone; I hope my time is now. That is why I see the Big Boss return as a huge step in the right direction because it will really hasten our preparations for the qualifiers.
Usually matches are more difficult to win during the summer break, with players visiting their families and needing to rest. How can Super Eagles avoid these pitfalls ahead of Nigeria’s double header against Chad and Tanzania?
Well, it is natural that every player would want to rest when the summer breaks come up but we in the Super Eagles are aware of the task ahead. They say once beaten, twice shy; we cannot afford to miss another AFCON. That is why I can confidently say that we are ready to put the country first and lay aside our personal pleasure. We are all professionals and our country needs us now. I strongly believe in the team and the coach. This AFCON qualifier is a must win for us and we will be mentally fit and ready for the games.
Nigeria opponents have been talking tough especially Egypt. Do you see countries like Tanzania, Chad and Egypt as a huge threat to Nigeria’s hope of qualifying for Gabon 2017?
It is normal for opponents to talk but we are not really nervous but we would let them do the talking while we take care of business on the field of play. I know African teams have really improved beyond what some of us expect but our experience with Sudan was an eye opener. We will ensure that we pick our points early enough. My confidence is coming from the belief I have in Coach Stephen Keshi; he knows how to get the best from his players. His second coming will be a great experience for Nigerians. I will give my best whenever I am called upon to represent my country. I don’t think there is any problem with the group. We will shed our blood to qualify for AFCON 2017. I am not worried that Egypt is in the group because all that matters now is for us to remain focused and be ready to play anywhere.
The main concern back home remains Super Eagles inability to win crucial games away from home. It is a factor pundits believe cost Nigeria the 2015 AFCON ticket. How can Super Eagles stop these trends?
Yeah! The fact that we failed to pick valuable points at home does not really mean we can’t now. Nigeria is blessed with the right manager and players to do the job. This is football and anything is possible in the round leather game. I strongly believe we will play to win away from home and that will put us in the driving seat during the qualifiers.
How would you describe life in China?
Life here has been good to me. I just want to play football and I don’t really care how and where as long as it satisfies my daily yearnings. It is a different experience on its own generally but I have really settled down well here. My vision is to leave my name in the sands of time when I move on to Europe. The people here are kind and generous. I like the food and honestly the future of the country’s football is bright.
Where next from here?
It is the dream of every player to play in one of Europe’s top leagues and I am not an exception too, but that requires a lot of hard work and discipline. I am prepared to work that out because right now I am not playing at my full potential in the Super Eagles. I really have to work hard and give more to the team. As for my current club, what is paramount now is to help the team do well in the league. I hope great offers come around in the summer, outside that, I must confess my China experience is something I won’t want to forget later in life. It has taught me to embrace whatever comes to you in life, and then see it as a phase you must go through. My life experience at Gateway United prepared me for the task of life. I think my humble beginning shaped me and prepare me for life challenges.
Thank you for your time Aaron.
It is my pleasure always.