…Says Super Eagles attack now world class

Samuel Chukwueze Super Eagles
Samuel Chukwueze

By Jacob Ajom

Before the emergence of the 1994 Super Eagles that won the AFCON in Tunisia and {for the first time} qualified Nigeria for the FIFA World Cup, the most popular Nigerian national team was the 1980 AFCON-winning side that paraded the likes Chairman Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala, Chief Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amesimaka, Best Ogndegbe, Kadiri Ikhana, Mudashiru Lawal, Dr Felix Owolabi, Allosius Atuegbu, Henry Nwosu, Sylvanus Okpala, Okey Isima, Ifeanyi Onyedika, David Adiele, Tunde Bamidele among others, too numerous to mention. They were indeed one of Nigeria’s brightest crop of players who raised so much hope for a brighter tomorrow for Nigerian football. The only thing that squad could not achieve was going to the FIFA World Cup. The nearest they got to qualifying for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. They were stopped in the final qualifying match in 1977 by a stubborn Tunisian side in Lagos, when Thompson Odiye scored an own goal that gave the visitors the advantage to proceed to Argentina.

Most of the stars that made up that glorious generation are still alive and are still celebrated by football loving Nigerians.

However, there is a growing fear that most of our heroes past could be forgotten and lost in the sands of time. The country’s past is gradually being obliterated from the minds of the younger generations and generations unborn as Nigeria has expunged history as a subject from school curriculum. What a shame! A country that does not know its history is lost because there is nothing to guide her course for the future. This is not where television houses broadcast historic matches or events of the past on regular basis.

Sports Vanguard was at the Akwa Ibom state capital, Uyo penultimate week to cover the Super Eagles match against the Squirrels of Benin Republic. A day after the match, we were at the Eagles camp to do a postmortem with the players by way of interviews and all. Through the amiable Super Eagles Media Officer, Toyin Ibitoye, we were able to meet some of the players. One of the players we met was fast rising Samuel Chukwueze, who plays for Villarreal in the Spanish Laliga.

During the chat, Chukwueze was asked, “How many former Super Eagles players who have played in the wings do you know?” The only name he mentioned was Emmanuel Amuneke, his former coach. The likes of Adokiye Amesimaka, Segun Odegbami, Humphery Edobor sounded strange to the young Nigeria international.

There was laughter… then he said, “them never born me that time. I do not know them.”

Below is the full interview with the Villarreal Star in Uyo.

Tell us your thoughts about yesterday’s game?

It was a good experience for me and for the team also. It wasn’t an easy game though; being 0 – 1 down until the last minute of the first half before we equalised did not make things easy for us. The second half was better. As a team made up of young players who are still growing in the game, we will mature with time. I think we are doing very well.

Did you go into that match with a mindset, like underrating the Beninois?

No, we did not underrate them. We were aware that they beat Morocco at the last Africa Cup of Nations. They have a very good team. So how could we have underrated them? They are a good side.

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A few years ago, many people did not know who Samuel Chukwueze was and suddenly, you are playing in the Super Eagles and in Spain. How did this transformation come about?

It’s through hard work. I was determined and I did not mind my size or any other handicap. I just believe in myself. That is the most important thing, I believe in myself and I push hard. I believe that is why I am where I am today. Self-belief.

How much of the former Green Eagles players do you know; who have played in the wings before. How many of them do you know?

For me, I heard of Emmanuel Amuneke. He was my coach in the U-17 national team when he taught me many things that I do in the wings now. He is a very fantastic coach and player also.

Did you hear of the likes of Adokiye Amesimaka, Segun Odegbami, Humphery Edobor and others?

I did not hear of all those ones, I don’t know them ( laughter ) .. them never born me that time … laughter.

Those were some of the greatest wingers Nigeria had seen in the past. Seeing you and Samuel Kalu play yesterday was like a recap of those great wingers we watched in the past. At what point would you want to be called one of the greatest that ever wore the Super Eagles shirt?

One day maybe when I win the World Cup or the Nations Cup for Nigeria

You think you can win the World Cup?

Yes. I strongly feel so with this crop of players we are having. I believe we can. I believe in myself and in the team also.

Your deal with the Rock Nation; how has it affected you?

Rock Nation is an endorsement deal. It was the Association that brought the Rock Nation deal like Pepsi, Coca Cola. Rock Nation has been doing a lot for me and bringing better deals that will be better for my career and future.

We have heard of a lot of teams running head over heels seeking your signature. Would you want to leave Spain for any other team like Liverpool if they come for you?

For now, I am a Villarreal player. I am not interested in any other club, I don’t want to be distracted by anything anybody is saying. I want to concentrate and see how we can remain up there among the best in Spain. For now, I need maximum concentration. Maybe in the future, a movement is possible but right now my attention is on Villarreal. I want to focus well on my club and gain more confidence. Maybe when the time is ripe, I can move.

At the beginning, Villareal began so well but for some weeks now, you have been hovering around 10th and 12th positions. Why is it so?

Football is like that. At times you would think all is going well, then suddenly, the unexpected happens. Remember Barcelona was down there at a point but now they are in the commanding seat. We are all working hard. It is not an easy thing. You know the league is thirty something matches, so it is a marathon. It is step by step. The season is still young.

You seem to play better when you meet the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and the likes. What is the motivation?

I still remember when I used to watch them on television. One thing you need to understand is when you believe in yourself, you don’t have to be scared of anybody, they are human beings like yourself. Just play your game and be happy, that is all.

When you were in Nigeria, which foreign team did you like or support?

I was supporting Chelsea. I used to support every team that featured a Nigerian. So my love for Chelsea then was because of Mikel

If Chelsea calls you now, what would you do?

I am not going because I am a Villarreal player and need to get my confidence more.

The Super Eagles attack, young and enterprising. There is Moses Simon, Samuel Kalu, Victor Osimhen who are all fast and enterprising. How is the future of the Super Eagles attack?

The future is very bright and I am happy to play alongside them. Not only for the national team, when you go to their clubs you see that they are also doing very well. Osimhen has been on fire since the season began and Simon scored a hat-trick the other weekend. Kalu has also been scoring while Ahmed Musa just back from injury is doing well also. We have very good and dangerous attack, I would say the best attack right now in Africa.

Who is the closest player to you in the Super Eagles?

Victor Osimhen is my closest friend in Eagles.


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