In this interview with Completesportsnigeria.com's SAB OSUJI in Brazzaville Congo, veteran captain of Nigeria's senior national basketball team, D'Tigers, Olumide Oyedeji, reveals his All Africa Games ambition after leading the team to win the Afrobasket title for the very first time.
Photo by Ganiyu Yusuf.
You have just led the D'Tigers to their first game in the basketball event of the All African Games, beating Mali 76-59. How would you describe the game and its importance to the team?
First and foremost I would say that was our first time playing together as a team since after the Afrobasket championship in Tunisia. I hope we continue to get better as the games continue. Overall, I would say it was a great victory over Mali because the first game in any competition is always very important. Overall, I would say the team will get better in the coming games. But I believe we will get better when we get to the knock out stages.
How would you rate the Malians in the game?
Mali finished fifth or sixth in the Afrobasket Championship in Tunisia which we won of course. They reached the quarter-finals and knocked out quite some big teams in the championship. That shows they are a good team with credentials. They are a strong side, but we don't just have to worry about them because the game against them is gone. So let's focus on the coming game (on Saturday September 12) which is against Mozambique.
Talking about Mozambique in your second group match, how do you look forward to it?
It is a very important match for us. Firstly, we want to win all our games. Secondly, we know that Mozambique will come out strong because they too want to win. So it's going to be difficult but don't forget we're getting better with every game.
What chances do you think D'Tigers have in taking home the All Africa Games basketball gold medal at the end of the day?
I believe we have good chance, all eyes are on us. After our victory in the Afrobasket championship everybody is expecting us to win. So I must say we came here to win.
What's your take on the facilities put in place by the organisers of the Congo 2015 All Africa Games, especially as it relates to basketball?
The facilities are good if I must say. I just hope and pray that we can have something like this in our country. I just wish and I also hope it happens.
Tell me your personal target coming to the 2015 All Africa Games here in Congo Brazzaville.
I have two ambitions coming here. First is to win the gold and secondly, I want to be the first Team Nigeria captain to lift the overall winners trophy of the All Africa Games. I have to support my teammates, I have to support my Team Nigeria as leader and as captain and to also inspire them.
How easy has it been leading the D'Tigers as captain?
It's all about belief, there is really nothing special about it. They believe in me and I also believe in them. I hold them in trust and they also trust in me. We are together in everything we do. So there is no problem, just belief in ourselves has been the key. They believe in me and I believe in them. They trust me and I trust them, they respect me and I respect them. We are together in this, not just about myself. This unity, trust and confidence is what has been moving the team forward.
Oyedeji , you once retired from basketball, now tell us that which inspired your decision to make a U-turn.
Probably I've not really said I have retired from the game. But probably very soon I may call a press conference or tell everybody that this is what I'm going to do. All the same I give glory to God for everything, my engine is still lubricating well so I give thanks to God for an injury-free career. Of course I thank my family for their support and understanding. I have stayed away from my family a very long time but I had to thank them for their support and understanding. I also have to everybody, my fans for their support so far. Its not all about me but about colldctive effort, I love to serve the country, I have been serving my country for the last 18 years. I'm green-white-green for life and even when I'm retired, I will still keep serving the country one way or the other.
Thank you very much for finding time to talk with you Oyedeji.
You are welcome, I have good friends in Complete Sports. You guys are doing well.