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EJIDE: AFCON MISS IS A BITTER LESSON

EJIDE: AFCON MISS IS A BITTER LESSON

–Super Eagles of Nigeria and Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel goalkeeper laments Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. He spoke to Complete Sports’ SAB OSUJI on the Eagles players’ pains of not beating South Africa in Uyo, Nigeria not going to defend their AFCON title in Malabo and his club career amongst other issues. Enjoy excerpts…

Complete Sports: The Super Eagles will not be in Equatorial Guinea next January to defend her AFCON title won last year in South Africa….

Ejide (cuts in) Its very sad, painful. We did our best to win (against South Africa) but the victory couldn’t come. Its a very bitter lesson for us not going to the Nations Cup next year. We thought we’re going to make it even though we didn’t start (the qualifiers) well. After we won in Congo, it looked we’re going to qualify but unfortunately the draw with South Africa has made it impossible for us to qualify.

Perhaps you guys underrated South Africa having held them to a draw in Cape Town in the first leg.

It’s hard to explain what really went wrong. I’m sure every one of us played his heart out aiming for a win because we all wanted to be at the Nations Cup next year. But you know football can be funny, unpredictable and we have seen the odd side of it today. Its unbelievable, disheartening we will miss the AFCON next year. Its a bitter pill for us to swallow.

What was it that the coach, Stephen Keshi, told you guys inside the dressing room after the match in Uyo?

Well, you know the coach is like a father to all the players. He was not happy with the way things turned out. But all the same he said we should have done better.

Keshi was reported to have said you guys underrated Bafana Bafana, hence the shocking draw and ouster from the AFCON race.

We wanted to consolidate on the victory we recorded in Congo. The atmosphere at Uyo was fantastic, the stadium was excellent, the grass turf was perfectly football friendly. But what went wrong that the goals refused to come at the right time despite the chances we created is what I can’t explain. In football, if you fail to take your chances when they come, you get punished, its very obvious. Of course, the coach has the right to assess the game and come out with what happened. Truth is that the result was disappointing to us, our career and we say sorry to Nigerians who had stood behind us in prayers and moral support to deliver the AFCON ticket.

Tell us, how is Hapoel Be’er Sheva faring in the on-going Israeli top league?

Well, I can say we’re doing good, last season we finished second on the final log and played in the UEFA Europa League. This time, we want to go one step up. We hope to top the final table so as to have a shot at the UEFA Champions League next year.

Where is Be’er Sheva in the league standings at the moment?

We have just played 11 games and we are third on the table with 19 points. Of course the league is still young but we are working hard.

You lost 3-2 at Hapoel Tel Aviv. what went wrong? Don’t you think the defeat may affect your ambition of emerging first in the overall table?

I don’t think that anything went wrong. Its football, sometimes you win, some time you lose. I read on internet where it was said I have conceded 10 goals so far in the season and I begin to ask, why counting number of goals I concede? What about saves that I make, has anybody counted that? Why do people want to run others down? What does such people want to achieve if I may ask? All the same, I think the league is a marathon race so I believe we can still make up in subsequent games. We’re second on the table at the moment with 18 points from nine matches.

You have another Super Eagles player with you at Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the person of John Ogu. How is he faring?

Oh, very fantastic. Ogu has been an instant hit here, he’s doing extremely great and has been in the fans’ mouth who keep appreciating his quality and contribution to the club. We’re delighted to have him I must say.

Back to the Super Eagles,what do you think Nigeria will miss not playing in next year’s Nations Cup?

Like I said earlier, its very painful watching the AFCON from the side when we should be at the center playing. As defending champions we had no reasons not being in Equatorial Guinea to defend our title. But it has happened (that we won’t be there) so we have to take the positives and move on. We’ve got to work harder in the coming editions of the championship.

Its nice talking with you Austin

Thank you very much.

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