Super Eagles defender Chibuzor Okonkwo tells Completesportsnigeria.com’s BAMIDELE BOLUWAJI that he and his colleagues are well prepared to ensure Egypt fall in the first leg match of the 2017 AFCON qualifier in Kaduna, saying he believes so much in the technical ability of Coach Samson Siasia in ensuring Nigeria qualify for the tournament in Gabon…
How do you feel being invited for the 2017 AFCON double header against Egypt?
I feel happy and excited because it has been a long time I played in the national team. I must say I am grateful to the coaches for the confidence they have in me. It is yet another opportunity for me to prove what I can do in the national team.
It has been long you played in the national team, what changes have you seen in the Super Eagles?
Yes, you are right it has been a long time but I am happy to be back to contribute to the team again. When I left the team, the Super Eagles were doing well and I am happy that I am returning to the team when the team is still doing well. It is a challenge for me and other players who have been away for some time to work hard and make sure we take the team to the next level.
What was the experience like playing in the Libyan League before returning to the NPFL?
Well, I want to thank God for the opportunity I had to play outside the country and I see it as an experience I needed to get better as a professional footballer. Libyan League is well organized just like we have in Nigeria now and it is very attractive in terms of money but when you look at the standard with what we have here, I will say our league is better because I can see lots of changes in our league now that will make it attractive to anybody outside the country. Personally, I think the difference is money and if we can just make our league more lucrative In terms of salaries, bonuses and other entitlements, many people from outside Nigeria will be willing to come and play here. I am happy that I played in Libya and gained some experience from there.
You were part of Coach Samson Siasia team in 2008 and now you are back to play under the same coach, how would you describe him and what is that thing do you think makes him to command respect from his players?
He is an experience Coach and highly discipline in everything he does, he does not treat players any how or look down on players and he advises players on how they can be better instead of insulting them. Everyone that has passed through him will testify to what I am saying and that is why players will always want to go extra miles to play for him. The first time I played under him, I did not know much about him but when I got to know him, I saw one thing in him and that is his interest in players’ progress and that is why players always see him as a role model. Highly technical and he does not joke with training, if he expects you to do something in training and you did not get it right, he will insists until you get it right and also encourages players that they can be Messi, Ronaldo and other great players in the world.
Nigeria will be playing Egypt on March 25 in Kaduna, how prepared are you for this match?
Well, we are in camp now preparing for the match, it is an important match to the players and Nigeria our country and if I am picked for the match, I will definitely give my best to make sure we win. If you see the level of concentration in camp now ahead of match, you will see that we are all ready to declare war on Egypt, that match is a must win for us and I want to assure Nigerians that we are going to give our best.
Nigeria must win the first match in Kaduna to qualify for the 2017 AFCON; do you players really believe you can do it for Siasia?
Like I said, it is not the case of doing it alone for the coach, but for ourselves and the Nigeria as a nation. We have been told that we need to win the first leg match if we must qualify for the African Cup of Nations and I must tell you that it is a do or die affair, Egypt must fall in the match and we are even taking the fight to their home ground after the first leg match.
Are you nursing any fear ahead of the crucial games?
No, all we need to do is to prepare well and go out there to give our best, I have no reason to be afraid of anything because it is a game of 11 versus 11 matches. We are well prepared for the games.
What are your expectations from the first leg game?
My expectation is a good game that will earn us the victory we need and we will go for it.
What is the importance of the African Cup of Nations to you Chibuzor?
It is very important to me just like every other player, I feel great playing for Nigeria and I also want to represent my country at the 2017 African Cup of Nations, it is very important to me.
Can you predict the likely outcome of the first leg match in Kaduna?
I am not good at that and more so, only God has the final say on anything but we are going to fight hard to make sure we win.
Finally, did you miss anything in the Super Eagles when Coach Sunday Oliseh was in charge of the team?
I did not miss anything, the players that were there with him gave their best and now that we have another coach and some new players in the team, we are going to start from where he stopped and make sure we do more to take the Super Eagles to the next level.