Ex-international, Austin Okocha, who is also uncle to Alex Iwobi, shares his views on the Super Eagles’ readiness to win the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt. Excerpt…
What are your expectations of the Super Eagles ahead of the AFCON 2019?
As a big fan of the Super Eagles, it is all about my own expectations. I expect them to go all the way because in football anything is possible.
For me, based on experience, it is all about getting it right each time they play. If they can do that, they can beat anybody. We are not short of talents, but our preparation is key.
What will be your advice to coach Gernot Rohr?
I don’t think I stand any chance of advising him. As the coach, he owns the team and I am sure he is aware of the people’s expectations. Since he has been with the Super Eagles, he has done well for the team.
If you are to judge, what will be a good performance for you? Round of 16, Quarterfinal, Semis or final?
All we ask for is for them to play with passion and represent us in the right manner. We ask that they play their hearts out on the field of play. That will take them all the way. If they don’t give their best, that’s when we are going to have problems. But if they give their best, I think the people will appreciate them.
Your nephew, Alex Iwobi, said he was looking forward to winning the AFCON at first try like you did in 1994. How do you see this young man achieving this?
I think he has done so well since making his debut for the Eagles. For me the good thing about him is that he can only get better.
He’s a very humble young man willing to learn everyday and that shows in his performance. He keeps getting better and improving each day.
I hope he will achieve that dream of winning it on his first try. Of course, I will try and chip in some advice for him to achieve that.
It is a massive opportunity. I was thinking it was going to be easy to win it again after we won it in 1994 but it was not possible for the team until after I retired from football.
So it is a massive opportunity and it is good for some of us to pass that information to all these young ones. They need to realise that you might only get one chance to win it.
With the Super Eagles in Group B alongside Guinea, Burundi and Madagascar, do you see this as easy pairing for the team or banana peel?
You cannot underrate any team anymore; those days are gone. If you feel you are better than any country, you have to do the talking on the field of play and not by mouth.
You have to stamp your authority because there are no small teams anymore.
I was thinking it was going to be easy to win it again after we won it in 1994 but it was not possible for the team until after I retired from football
AFCON has been expanded to 24 teams; do you think Africa is ripe for this considering the facilities available in the continent?
Yes, and I think that was one of the reasons why they took it away from Cameroon and gave it to Egypt. No sentiments anymore.
If you don’t have what it takes to host a big tournament of that magnitude, they will take it away from you. Facilities wise, I think Egypt is good enough to host 24 countries and I am sure it is going to be a wonderful AFCON.
What did winning the AFCON trophy at first try mean to you?
Honestly I didn’t realise how big it was then. I was thinking I was going to win it several times, but I started appreciating it more after retirement. As a young man you don’t understand the privilege and opportunity.