EJIDE: MY WORLD CUP THRILLS AND FRILLS

austin ejide

austin ejide

–Super Eagles Goalie Reminisces Korea/Japan 2002 And South Africa
2010 World Cup Experiences

DISCOVERY FOR THE SUPER EAGLES IN 2002
My journey into the senior national team began in 2002. I remember  at that time I was still very much young and playing for Gabros International of Nnewi then in the first division of the Nigerian League.

Adegboye Onigbinde was in charge of the Super Eagles at that time. I came back from training one day and I was told that I had been invited to the Super Eagles camp.I received the call up with a mixture of happiness and surprise. At the national team, it was so tough for me, being a young player and new comer but I really thank God for giving me the grace to cope and make the final team. I also thank God for what has been happening to my career since then.

MY WORLD CUP MEMORY
I have so far participated in two World Cup tournaments, in Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010. Honestly those were lovely experiences I will always cherish. The World Cup is the highest level of football and every player aspires to get there, to be part of the fun and being named among the 23 players who represented his country at those championships, is something great for me and my career and I’m very happy about it.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS
I remember very well during our preparation for the 2002 World Cup finals we played several friendly matches. In one of such games, precisely against Paraguay, I was handed the starting shirt (glove). It was a special moment for me, very memorable you know, to be called up to keep against a team like Paraguay with fantastic strikers like Santa Cruz. It wasn’t easy for me though but that  game really  prepared me to become who I am today.

ENCOUNTER WITH SANTA CRUZ AND CHILAVERT
It was a wonderful moment for me to see Santa Cruz and Chilavert, one of the World’s best goalkeepers at that time.

Having the opportunity to play against them, standing face to face with Chilavert, though we were several meters away from each other and always having to come in contact with Santa Cruz were really special moments for me. I was motivated by playing against him (Chilavert), I was inspired by playing against Santa Cruz because at that time he was very hot and gained  courage that having faced Santa Cruz without conceding a goal, I could face any striker in the World. These were the positives I took from that game because those two characters, Santa Cruz and Chilavert, really added something to my career.

SADDEST  WORLD CUP MOMENT
I’ve had wonderful experiences in the World Cup. First to make the 23-man squad list was great, but if opportunity had been given to me to play, that would have been nice. Being part of the World Cup was just my happiness, naturally only eleven will start, if you have your chance to play, fine, but if not, wish others playing good because it’s a team sport and keep believing your time will come.

UNFAIR TREATMENT BY FIFA/CAF OFFICIALS, REFEREES
Was there really such? I don’t think so. I have participated in two world Cup tournaments. The first was in 2002 in Korea/Japan. The second was in South Africa 2010. In 2002, we were in the same group with Argentina, England and Sweden. All the countries were very tough. If we had beaten Sweden it would have been easier for us to qualify. In 2010 we found ourselves in the same group with Argentina (again),South Korea and Greece. That was where or when I thought we had a chance, you know. It would have been historic for us to qualify with three points (if we had beaten Greece). But we blew it. Anyway, that’s football, so the experience we have gathered in the previous tournaments, I believe will help us in this one at Brazil. So, personally, I don’t have any moment of unfair treatment by FIFA, CAF, football Administrators or even referees in my World Cup appearances so far.

MOST DIFFICULT OPPONENT
Football has evolved a lot now, teams have improved so much. Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina have all grown to become good sides to the extent that all eyes are focused on them. You have to motivate yourself to play, you must get yourself right in the mood to play your best game. Against Argentina you already know you are going to meet the World’s best footballers, so you are already in the right frame of mind. But our main problems in the group are Iran and Bosnia. Against these two teams we must brace ourselves up,  roll up our sleeves to silence them and get the maximum points before the Argentina game.

MOST UNFORGETABLE MATCH
I would say it was the Nigeria/South Korea match during the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup. Though I did not feature in the match but I thought we had opportunities to win the game but we didn’t make it at the end of the day.

MATCH SUPERSTITION
I believe so much in prayers. Once I do that I’m okay. There’s power in prayers. As a christian, prayer is my own match superstition.

BIGGEST WORLD CUP LESSON
The biggest lesson I have learnt from the two World Cup finals I’ve participated in, is being focused and never giving up. One must always keep pushing because anything is possible. These are the biggest qualities that can make you a super star.

EFFECT OF PRE WORLD CUP CAMPING ON FAMILY
It’s very difficult, but then this is what we do, our business, our profession, our career. For those of us who are married, that period is meant to be the ideal time for us to stay with our families. World Cup is played during the summer, which means it’s when the league is over and we are supposed to be on holidays. But there’s not much we can do, The time for playing football is short, so you have to make the most out of it. Our wives, kids and even relatives understand this. So every one has to make that sacrifice to help you achieve the maximum you can, before you leave football.

WORLD CUP GAINS
What I have gained from playing in the World Cup cannot be quantified in monetary or material terms. Of course one cannot say there are no material and financial rewards that come with participating in the World Cup finals but for me, having the opportunity to travel to the World Cup hosting countries, interact with many people from different countries and enjoy their different cultures is wonderful, I must tell you.

SUPER EAGLES CHANCES AT BRAZIL 2014 WORLD CUP
If we keep the present character in the national team at the moment, it will help us go one step above where  we’ve  been in the past. Right now the team is doing well, we have the players and technical staff who are knowledgeable in the game having played at the highest level. So we have to prepare very well, physically and psychologically, because in a competition like this, opponents use everything available, including psychological tactics, against you. So the more you get these tricks into your head, the better for the team. But overall, I believe we’ll do something great at the World Cup, something better than we’ve done in the past. I can’t at this point say we must reach the quarter final or semi final stage at the World Cup. The championship is about three months away, all we get to do right now is to intensify our preparations. Having engaged Mexico in a friendly and still with more friendly games to play before the World Cup, I think we will have a good run at the tournament.

LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL
For now, I’ve not given that a thought, you know,  I’m not thinking about it right now. Frankly speaking, I have my plans towards that stage of my life but I don’t want to expose it yet. I’m just concentrating on my career right now and not thinking about leaving football.

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