With the U-23 teams two games away from qualifying for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations, one of the top players of the team and Villarreal star, Samuel Chukwueze, told our correspondent that the players are buoyed by the disappointment of failing to qualify for the last U-20 AFCON after losing to Sudan on aggregate in the qualifiers:
How does it feel qualifying for the next stage of the qualifier where you will meet Sudan?
It was a great moment for all of us – the team, the coaches and the country, we were all happy for the feat, but we need to remain focus from now.
I want to use the opportunity to thank God, the players, the officials and all the people involved for working together to achieve the victory.
What do you have to say about the opportunity to come together with some of the players you won the 2015 U-17 World Cup with?
It was so nice and fun having them around after so long that we were together. It was awesome, I was very glad to see all of them and as we are like this we can do more and create more history for the country as a bunch together.
Do you see this team qualifying for the Olympics and also going ahead to win it?
Of course, it is possible. We need to be consistent and keep our focus. I have trust in the team and if we work together, we can achieve our goal as a team together.
Was the disappointment of missing out of the last U-20 AFCON motivated this team to fight for the Olympics?
I think so. When we lost against Sudan in Lagos, it was like the world was coming to an end. We all feel devastated and inconsolable.
This time around, we are all fighting because we don’t want the situation to repeat itself again. With this U-23, we are more matured and better than we were play the U-20 and like I said, I have total trust in the squad.
I have trust in the team and if we work together, we can achieve our goal as a team together
What went wrong in the qualifier against Sudan two years ago?
I can’t really say but I will say it was just a game. We played as a team and we actually won the first leg away from home only for us to lose in Lagos. We scored, they scored, and it went on like that till we lost the game.
We have taken that off our mind; we’re looking forward to the future.
Your coach at the time, Emmanuel Amuneke, recently qualified Tanzania for the AFCON. What is your take about this feat?
He is an amazing coach and an amazing feat for him to qualify a country for the AFCON. I have trust in him and I am sure he is going to achieve great things with the country. He will also do well at the AFCON.
What can you say about your club career in Spain?
It has not been easy especially with the language, culture and environment, but due to my determination and concentration, I have been able to overcome the barriers. I’ve kept on playing and working hard.
Sometimes when it is not working out well, I continue to work hard to achieve my goals.
At a point, there was a change of coach at your club. How have you been able to cope with the new pattern of play at different times in Spain?
When something happens the first time and again the second time, then you will have to find a way of adapting.
I don’t even have a choice than to adapt especially when I look at where I was coming from and where i am going. I continue to push both on the pitch and outside it.
How have you been able to cope with the language, culture and environment?
I have been doing that for almost a year now and I’m gradually getting used to it.
What’s growing up for you like?
I actually wanted to go to school but out of the blues, I woke up one day and the next thing I was told that I will be going for a football screening.
I was not even picked after the screening; it was for an academy. But I continued to struggle, and the rest is history.
Can you say playing football was the best decision for you?
Yes. I will say it was a good decision to take football as a career, especially with what I already achieved at my age.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
At the top of my career.