Inter Milan youngster Joel Obi has stepped up to the plate at a time Nigerian fans are desperate for new heroes following the fiasco that was last year’s World Cup.
You will most probably have to go far back to 2004 when Obafemi Martins made a goal-scoring debut in London to match Obi’s own Super Eagles bow against Sierra Leone last month.
Sporting the number four shirt worn with great distinction for the past 16 years by the durable Nwankwo Kanu, Obi held sway in midfield with his magical left foot and showed uncanny confidence by making himself available for set pieces.
It was his low cross from the left flank that Ekigho Ehiosun smartly made hay for the Eagles second goal before the interval.Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, heaped praise on the exciting debutant.
“Joel Obi was good and along with another young player like Ahmed Musa, he has a lot to offer
Nigeria for many years to come. These players have got talent and they haven’t even reached their peak,” remarked Siasia.
“I am really happy for them. What they need is to play more matches to get the needed confidence after which they would offer a lot more for this country.. Obi in particular was playing his first_ever game for the Eagles and he took his chance with both hands.
I hope he continues like this. With more matches, he would surely improve, like Musa is doing right now. In the first half we did very well but didn’t do so well in the second half. The reasons may be because we had a number of new players like me coming to play for the first time. But I believe with time everything will be better,” he offered.
“I enjoy playing a free role in the team, but at the same time as a professional you must always play to instructions. The coach told me to take it easy, just play simple, and that was just what I did. I was instructed to support the two strikers upfront.
“I don’t think I played up to my capacity. But all the same, it was good to start on a winning note.
“It was a privilege to play for this great team with great players and I believe, together, we can make the Super Eagles great again.”
Obi did not play his football in Nigeria as his skills were horned at the famous academy of the Nerazzurris in Italy from the tender age of nine when he moved there with his parents.
“I was too young to play league football at the age of 9 when I was in Nigeria. Another thing was that my parents, most especially my mum, did not encourage me to play football while I was in Nigeria until I got to Italy,” he revealed.
“I fell in love with the game and got my basic lessons in Italy. I think this has really helped me to this stage. There are lots of good pitches and coaches in Italy and have I passed through some good football academies. I think I am enjoying myself playing football in Italy and most especially playing in Inter Milan now.”
“I think the initial fears and emotions as regards playing among great players at Inter Milan are over. It is great to play in this team. I think Inter Milan stars appreciate my talent too. I am happy playing for this team. I must continue to work harder to stay in the team. Nigeria is blessed with so much talent and I would say I am lucky to be playing in the first team, even if it were a friendly,” said Obi.
“I’m not intimidated by the stars in the team because football is going on to the pitch to have your fun, nothing more. I know I am very young in this profession but that doesn’t mean that I would be scared of anybody while on the pitch.