Former Eagles international, Etim Esin, says while Nigeria may play second, even third fiddle to other countries in Egypt, the Flying Eagles could win the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland, starting on Thursday May 23:
After failing to qualify for two consecutive Africa Cup of Nations, how do you fancy the chances of the Super Eagles in Egypt?
With good preparation they can go far. Another thing is unity, that oneness must be there, it is not good if we start hearing a lot of negative things like rancour among the players. If they can prepare well and achieve unity they can do something of note.
Are you saying they are favourites to win the trophy or not?
There are other favourites: Egypt is there, they are the host nations, they have a formidable squad. Senegal is there, they have great players.
I don’t think they have won it before and they will be determined to win it. If we get to the semi-final or final, then I will be very proud, or we can even shockingly win the title like we did in 2013.
Despite your talents, you never had the opportunity of playing at the AFCON, any regrets?
It was due to animosity of those coaches against me. Some of them accused me of stubbornness, which wasn’t an issue for me.
I was supposed to play in Maroc 1988, Algiers 1990, Senegal 1992 and even the Tunisia 1994. I played qualifiers in all those tournaments but when it was time for the main competition, there were always dramas.
I really wanted to be at the World Cup, it was my dream, but it didn’t happen. About 60 percent of players in that 1994 squad were my mates. I think it was never meant to be. Let us thank God for life.
Recently, the Nigeria Football Federation has been trying to engage some ex-internationals. Do you think they have done enough for those of you that made the country proud in the past?
I think they are doing some kind of segregation; they are biased in the way they do their appointments.
Look at that Christian Chukwu case, the iconic captain that first lifted the Nations Cup.
We know the kind of things that go on behind the scene when we are preparing for a competition like this. We know that some people will start collecting money from different kinds of players to get into the squad and drop those ones with talent
How old were those in NFF when this man achieved that feat? How much is $50,000?
It is not up to what these guys give to their girlfriends! It is a shame! We should not have allowed this to happen. And again, what is Enugu State government doing?
That is another sad story. I think the younger generation of players can learn from this ugly episode.
You played in the U-20 World Cup and Nigeria will be looking forward to winning the tournament for the first time this year, how do you think this current squad can do it?
Ghana is the only African country that has won the U-20 World Cup. Nigeria is always the pace-setter in Africa and I think if we put our mind to it we can win it this time.
I have always spoken about preparation and getting the right kind of players. We know the kind of things that go on behind the scene when we are preparing for a competition like this.
We know that some people will start collecting money from different kinds of players to get into the squad and drop those ones with talent.
If we can put the sentiments of selling players apart and get good squad we can achieve something this time around.