Ex-international, Tarila Okorowanta, applauds the commitment of Super Eagles captain, Mikel Obi, to the national team’s cause:
The FIFA U-20 World Cup started on Thursday with the Flying Eagles starting their campaign on a winning note, beating Qatar 4-0. What are the chances of the team in Poland?
It was a good thing for them winning their first game 4-0. I just want them to continue to maintain that performance.
Actually I have not watched the team play; I only heard about them. I also don’t know much about the coach handling the team, his pedigree and so on.
He didn’t have good pre-tournament results and struggled to qualify for the World Cup. So, I can’t really say much about the team’s chances, all I can do now is just to wish them luck.
As Nigerians, anytime we are going for a major championship like this, we always want our team to win, at least get to the semifinals or even the final.
I will want the players to take it as a big responsibility representing the country and they must give it their all in Poland. I wish them all the best.
How I wish our players could play with passion now. Yes, they have the money, they play in Europe, but nothing compared with representing your country as a professional
You represented Nigeria at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1983 and also scored the first ever goal for the country at any FIFA organised tournament. How does it feel to be part of history?
It was a good moment for me representing Nigeria, a country of over 150m people, and also scoring the first goal ever at any FIFA tournament for the country.
In those days we played with passion because there was no money in football like now. In our days you could only watch on black and white television; few people watched colour TV, no internet, no telephone like we have now.
How I wish our players could play with passion now. Yes, they have the money, they play in Europe, but nothing compared with representing your country as a professional.
We don’t have any other place to call home than Nigeria. You should give your all while representing the country. The goal was not for me alone but for Nigeria.
The announcement was about a Nigerian player scoring and not just Tarila Okorowanta. When you score goal for your team, it is a collective effort and not just yours alone.
I didn’t just pick the ball and went straight to get the goal; it was passes from the other players that got the ball to me, so the credit goes to all the team.
I didn’t see anything special about it then until when people started talking about it, then it dawned on me that I did something special then.
I can now feel the impact of representing the country, going to the World Cup and also scoring a goal. Although I am a striker and as a striker, your job is to score goals, so I will say I was so happy then.
I don’t want a situation where we are going to play badly and be eliminated in the group stages. He should be giving us confidence that we can go far in Egypt
After missing out of two consecutive Africa Cup of Nations the Super Eagles will be in Egypt in June. What are the chances of this team?
I will start by saying the coach has not been giving us confidence as a country going to AFCON. I am not saying we have to get to the final at all costs, but the way he has been going about it, I don’t like.
I don’t want a situation where we are going to play badly and be eliminated in the group stages. He should be giving us confidence that we can go far in Egypt; we should be one of the giants on the continent, we should not be struggling.
If we look at the team that won the 1994 and 2013 AFCONs, people can see the kind of performance they put up.
The quality of the players in the team at the moment can go as far as the final if they truly put in their best; that’s my personal opinion. The coach will however need to do a lot in that team.
What’s your take on the return of Mikel Obi to the team?
For me, if he can still play for the national team, then I don’t have any reason to doubt his commitment to the team. Mikel has been a good player and if he thinks he can continue, so be it.
The national team is for everybody and not for some set of people.
We should even be happy he plays for the country. He has the love of the country at heart; that was why he kept on coming back to play for the country unlike some that decided to call it quits even though they are still very young.