Sunshine Stars forward and Glo Premier League joint top scorer, Tunde Adeniji, tells completesportsnigeria.com’s ADEBOYE AMOSU in Akure about his desire to become Nigeria’s leading marksman in the future…
You were virtually an unknown figure before start of the current season. How has the journey been?
I’m from here in Ondo State. I started my football career on the streets playing for youth teams before I finally joined Rising Stars Football Club.
At first my parents objected to my decision of becoming a footballer because to them then, it was not a lucrative profession.
I remember telling my friends then that football belongs to those of us who come from a poor background. I may be wrong, but if you look around, it’s difficult to single out a successful footballer today especially in Africa who had it easy from the start.
Despite my parents’ disapproval, I made up my mind to become a successful footballer and along the line, when people started telling them about how good their son was, they gave their consent and started supporting me.
How has it been from the challenges of playing football on the streets to becoming the top scorer in the Glo Premier League?
It has really been tough, but I derive strength in the fact that I wanted to prove a lot of doubters wrong. You know how difficult it is see in this part of the world to make it especially as a footballer.
There were those who never really believed in me. My parents like I said earlier were not too keen on me playing football.
I remember those days when we played in small competitions within and outside Akure just to keep body and soul together.
You go to training very early in the morning with nothing in your stomach and you are not even sure where the meal will come from after training.
Also, when you read and listened to stories of great footballers then, and what they passed through before coming to limelight, that also gives you a lot of confidence to one day be like them.
How did you made your way to the Sunshine Stars first team after struggling to make an impact in the team last season following your arrival from Rising Stars?
Everything is all about hard work and determination. I didn’t actually perform poorly last season as I scored 13 goals in the league for the club.
That to me is not a bad figure considering the fact that it was first season in the top flight. Also the guy who won the top scorers award (Mfom Udoh) scored 23 goals.
Today, Sunshine Stars is one of the biggest clubs in Nigeria, with lots of quality players in the team.
When I joined the club, I had the opportunity of learning from experienced players like Dele Olorundare, Ajani Ibrahim and others.That really helped me improve on my game and confidence level.
Would you say the departure of someone like Ajani Ibrahim to 3SC helped you become a regular in the team?
I don’t think so. With due to respect to everyone in the team, I strongly believe I’m now a regular because of my quality.
I did well last season and when the opportunity came to lead the team’s attack, I took it with both hands.
How did you receive the news of your invitation to the Super Eagles?
I must confess it came to me a surprise. Not because I didn’t deserve it, but because I was not desperate for it.
It’s something I really wanted, but I know it takes a lot of hard work to get. To get the chance to play for the national team, one must not only play regularly at club, but be outstanding.
So, all I had in mind was to keep improving on my performance, while hoping to get the recognition one day.
What went through your mind when you first heard the news?
Like every footballer who has the ambition of playing for his country, I was very happy. It was a joyous occasion for me and I also shed tears too.
I kept remembering those difficult times when I was playing football on the street without really knowing what the future really held and I was like, ‘finally you are getting the reward for all the effort you put in the past.’
You failed to make the team for the games against Tanzania and Niger Republic, that must have been difficult for you to take considering the fact you impressed in some friendlies before those games?
Not really because the head coach (Sunday Oliseh) was actually happy with my performance in camp and told me some positive things.
He personally called me aside and said, “Tunde I know you are a good striker, but I can’t take you to Tanzania for one or two reasons.”
What did the coach actually tell you?
It was a conversation between father and son. To be honest I left the camp in a happy mood because it was my first experience with the national team and to have impressed the coaches, especially Sunday Oliseh, is a thing of joy to me.
He promised to invite him for subsequent games which I’m looking forward to.
I understand there are a lot of strikers in the team at the moment especially the foreign-based guys, but I know my time will surely come.
How would rate your chances of becoming a regular in the Super Eagles considering the glut of strikers available to the coaches ?
I believe I have good chance of becoming a regular in the team even though i must admit I have to work real hard to achieve that.
I was happy to learn from someone like Emmanuel Emenike and other experienced strikers while in the Super Eagles camp.
My dream is to one day play in Europe like them and most importantly become the number one striker in the Super Eagle like the late Rashidi Yekini.
I still remember vividly Yekini’s achievement for the team and hope not to only emulate him one day, but also surpass his records.
How soon do you want to join the list of professional players abroad ?
I have received a lot of calls from agents who said they want to take me abroad, but I’m not too eager for that at the moment.
I just want to take my time and improve on my performance at the club level and also with the national team.
That can wait till the end of the season.