Super Eagles forward, Osaze Odemwingie, in this interview with KATE OBODO in Abuja, after Eagles were held to a 2-2 draw by Guinea, reveals why Eagles failed to qualify for the 2012 African Cup of Nations. He also weeps for the young duo of Joel Obi and Ahmed Musa. Excerpts
How do you feel seeing Nigeria being unable to beat Guinea to qualify for the 2012 tournament?
Honestly, I am disappointed that we failed to qualify for the forthcoming Nations Cup. Many people were thinking we were going to fly above Guinea by winning the game with a wide margin, but their first goal was a big surprise to us. When they scored us, we knew we had to score three goals and that actualised demoralized the team automatically because it appeared an impossible mission. In our eagerness to score three goals, everyone ran forward not considering about the defence, which led to their equaliser/ We were too impatient.
What would you say about your performance in the game ?
It is unfortunate that some fans booed me when I was going out, I knew I missed one or two good chances but I would not say it was a bad performance but I am only disappointed that I was not able to score.
Do you agree with the view that the substitution of Joel Obi exposed the Eagles midfield?
The coach so much believe in attacking football, so he felt putting in another striker would help save the situation at that moment and he needed somebody who would do it , so he was desperately in need of a goal but it turned out to be the team’s detriment.
Nigerians are complaining about the commitment of players, and that the Super Eagles are not committed enough?
I do not believe that we are not committed, even when people are clamouring for a new Super Eagles, all I know is that Super Eagles are always Super Eagles, and there is no player who will take his bag and come to the national team and doesn’t want to make a name for himself, especially after travelling from a far distance, with the risk and pain of training and at the end, the player refuses to give his best.
What is your message to Nigerians?
Well, Egypt didn’t qualify, Cameroon also did not qualify, so we are not totally that bad. Things can never be so smooth all the time but we are going to improve as we proceed. Now they are calling for new Super Eagles, they want Young Super Eagles and I feel that it takes time to build the team I think this is one of our worst moment, and I believe only consistency and fans support can heal the wounds of the team .
Now that Nigeria is out of the forthcoming Nations Cup, how would you feel when the tournament starts, with the Eagles conspicuously missing?
It will be very sad, because when I thought of it that we did not qualify, I felt disappointed especially the fact that it will affect the younger players in the team, who have never played or do not have Nations Cup experience.
I am talking of players like Ahmed Musa, Joel Obi and others, who are aspiring to be at the Nation’s Cup . Though I have played in the Nations Cup before, but the first thing that comes to my mind, was when I was like them and had the chance to play at the Nations Cup and how it was such a great experience for me then, but for the younger players in the team it will be disappointing. That is the only thing I really regretted, especially with the fact that these younger players will not see what we saw while we were like them at the Nations Cup.
How was the team without the likes of Obafemi Martin and Vincent Enyeamah? What is your take on the issue of indiscipline exhibited by some players in the team and to what extent did it affect the team”
Indiscipline is a normal thing in any team , Siasia is a nice man, myself I am not known to be ‘bad’ or someone, who is not nice to people especially to my coach. There was a misunderstanding between us; because I had an injury and I did not want to make it worse, so I asked permission from my coach and they turned it into a story that was why I reacted the way I did. I was doing the right thing.
I felt since I had an injury and there were many strikers at that time, who can play in my wing. I felt there was no need to continue to play but he still insisted I should not go. He said I should play for 10 minutes. But I had to go and treat myself for the big game ahead in my club. They said I was indisciplined.
In Enyeama’s case, to make a change you need not to be too harsh straight away. In football, many of our older players, do not know the word ‘indiscipline’ any more, you could discipline a player at 20 but at 30, there are better ways of handling the issue. I think that is where Siasia lost it a little bit. Actually to agree with somebody is very easy and there will be nothing at stake on that issue but he did not agree, and that has thrown up mixed feelings in the team.
Would you say the prophecy of Pastor T.B Joshua put team under pressure?
(laughs) Yes, after saying the team will fail, there was also a prophecy from another pastor that said it could not be changed and we had to pray again. All the same, nobody can tell what will happen tomorrow. But then we had a good game, we tried our best, but in all we were a bit impatient in finding the third goal.