Home based Super Eagles and Sunshine Stars FC of Akure goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa says he is gradually getting close to achieving his dream of being the first choice goalkeeper of Nigeria's senior national team. He told Completesportsnigeria.com's RICHARD JIDEAKA that he also wants to win the CHAN title in Rwanda play professional football in Europe.
What are the Super Eagles chances of winning the 4th CHAN Cup in Rwanda billed to kick off on January 16?
It is very bright. As you can see, we are working very hard to achieve that goal. We know the task ahead of us is enormous and we believe we are going there to win for our dear country. It is not going to be easy, but we are determined to make a statement in Rwanda.
Do you think this squad has the quality and commitment to do better than the last set that won bronze in the last CHAN cup in South Africa?
Without doubt, I will say we have the quality players who are ready to shed blood to do their country proud. I think we have a better squad than the 2014 team and we can do better and emerge victorious
Are you hoping to use CHAN as a stepping stone to move up in your career?
We all want to improve our game and step in our career and I want to believe that majority of the players in camp now are waiting for CHAN to be over, so that they go and pursue their career abroad.
You came into prominence after the 2007 FIFA Under-20 world and most people felt that Vincent Eyeama's successor has emerged. Why has it taken you a whole lot of eight years to make it to the Super Eagles?
I have been doing well in the Nigerian league, but somehow, the national team selectors did not notice me. But I always believed that I will make it. God has been the secret behind everything I do. It is God first, then hard work and determination that have seen me do whatever I have done in life. I also want to attribute my good form last season to the special training and encouragement I got from Coach Fakore, the goalkeepers' trainer of Sunshine Stars FC of Akure. He never fails to remind me that I have the potential to be a great goalkeeper.
Are you still hopeful that you will be Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper in the nearest future?
By the grace of God, that is my future plan and I am very positive that I will make it. I think everything will come at the appropriate time. It has to be a gradual thing. I will take my chance when it comes. Again, I am encouraged by the opportunity of working under Eagles goalkeeper coach Aloy Agu, he is such a good trainer. With God on my side, I will achieve my dream of being Nigeria's No.1 in the nearest future.
Any plan to enhance your career and ambition by moving abroad?
Yes o! It is every player's dream to play professional football in Europe, and I am not an exception. I think the opportunity will surely come because I have strong faith in God. I will leave this country as soon as the chance comes.
Tell us how your career as a goalkeeper began
I started playing football as a striker back in my secondary school days and I was so good that my coach felt I would play for a big team. I became a goalkeeper by chance when my youth team coach asked me to try out between the post and that was it. From there I became a goalkeeper with Three Stars football club of Port Harcourt. I soon fell in love with goalkeeping and as soon I found out that I derived joy there more than as an attacker, I made up my mind to pursue a career as a shot stopper.
Seeing outfield players rake millions in transfers and wages,do you regret not being a striker today?
No, I don't regret not being an outfield player. I love stopping goals and I believe goalkeeping is what God planned for me. I will make my millions as a goalkeeper.
Who has inspired you the most as a footballer ?
My mother is my main inspirator. She urged me on and encouraged me to be what I want to be in life. She was always praying for me to succeed. So I give her the credit for being a footballer. My brother also saw the talent in me and supported me. I will continue to appreciate them all my life.
Which country will you prefer to play abroad?
It has to be France because I see black goalkeepers playing regularly in their league. Aside that, I think I love the country and would love to be in same place with my mentor and role model Vincent Enyeama. I would love to start in France and leave the rest to God.
You just said Enyeama is your mentor, how much did you learn from him?
I leant a lot from Enyeama within the short time I was his understudy. I leant his calmness, his control of his goal area, and organisation during matches. Being in same camp with him was a huge privilege which I benefitted from.
Finally, how do you rate the last Nigeria Premier league season?
It was good and interesting. My club Sunshine started brightly, and many had tipped us to win the title, but we ended up not even getting a continental ticket we so much desired. That we finished sixth after making the top two for almost the entire season showed the league was tough and keenly contested.