Super Eagles home-based captain, Chigozie Agbim differs with his coach Stephen Keshi on the team’s target at the forthcoming CHAN tournament in South Africa. While Keshi refused to set a target of winning the tournament, Agbim says the players need the trophy to further make strong case for themselves in Brazil 2014 World Cup squad. He spoke to our editor DESMOND EKWUEME. Excerpt…
How will you describe the World Cup draw which pitched Eagles against Argentina, Iran and Bosnia Herzegovina?
It is a good draw.
Do you think Eagles can qualify from the group?
I don’t want to sound boastful or to belittle other countries in our group, but seriously any of our three opponents that decide to take us for a ride will be doing that at its own peril. Our team is growing in confidence. Each game we play exposes us to something new. We are getting to understand ourselves better with each passing day and each game played. It will be difficult for any team to beat us at the World Cup. I think we have the potential to qualify.
Are you suggesting that Eagles can beat Argentina?
At the stage of the World Cup anything can happen. Remember that all the 32 teams are potential winners. We will all prepare to do battle for a common purpose which is the trophy. So we can beat Argentina.
What is your take on Iran and Bosnia?
They didn’t qualify by chance, they worked for it so, they won’t come to Brazil to make up the number but we will try to pick our three points against them.
What do you know about the three opponents?
Not much for now but before we land in Brazil we would have known enough about them just like they would also keep tab on us. However, we know some things about Argentina given their antecedents at the World Cup and of course the exploits of their players in the major Leagues around the world. Lionel Messi needs no introduction for instance.
You are the third choice goalkeeper of Eagles, aren’t you under pressure to fight for the first choice?
There is nothing like fighting for first choice or anything. In the goalkeeping department you need lot of experience because the older the goalkeeper becomes the better he is. I am still learning from my senior colleagues like Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide among others. They are my elder brothers. I must remain grateful to them for the manner they accepted me when I first got to the team which is the fulcrum to my continuous stay. I am not competing with them but just complimenting their efforts as a learner. I am really happy the way things are at the moment because it is not easy to be third choice goalkeeper in a great team like Super Eagles. I must also thank coach (Keshi) for the opportunity to be part of this great team. He is a father figure to most of us particularly me. He has taken our careers to unexpected point in just a short time. I don’t really know where some of us will be without his assistance. Perhaps we would have remained in our clubs struggling without any exposure at the international stage or level.
You are preparing for CHAN, what challenge does this pose to you?
Yes, it will present me the opportunity of putting to practice what I have been able to learn from my senior colleagues and coaches.
As captain of the team, what are your expectations?
I look forward to winning the tournament.
But your coach has said he is not focusing on winning it?
He is entitled to his opinion. He knows what he is saying as an expert. But on our part as players we need the trophy to make a strong case for ourselves for the World Cup squad. It is only natural that a good and solid performance in the tournament will help open doors for us (the players), it will further endear us to all particularly the coach who has been there for us. Don’t forget that we the home-based players owe him (coach) a lot of appreciation, perhaps winning the CHAN tournament could be our best way and avenue of saying ‘Thank You Sir for all you have done for us and our careers.’ You can now understand why I feel it is a must that we win the tournament. We need to do everything and anything within our reach to appreciate this man (Keshi). We cannot quantify or evaluate his contribution to our lives and careers.
Are you prepared to win the tournament?
We have the team to win. But we also need solid preparation which has already started with our camping exercise and we also need prayers and spiritual support to excel. As for the players I sincerely think the coach has groomed a solid home-based team. As it is at the moment you can just drop one player and plug the hole with another. That is to prove the level of understanding and strength of this team. Again the mentality is good because everyone knows that after CHAN comes the World Cup, so it is like saying that we have our future in our hands.
You are a sure bet for the World Cup, what do you think the tournament in Brazil will do for your career?
No player is sure of the World Cup. That is just the truth. If you understand the way coach (Keshi) works you will also understand that no player can say he is a sure bet for the World Cup. We are preparing for CHAN, may be you should allow me concentrate on that before talking about the World Cup which is about seven months away.
Are you not thinking of moving abroad?
I am but God knows best. Success is not by power or might but by the grace of God. When the time comes I will.
Which country or League are you looking at?
Let’s wait till then. You cannot be talking about choice when the offer has not come.
Are you suggesting that you have never had any offer from abroad?
Please let’s not talk about that now. It is not really important now because it is not connected with our CHAN preparation which is my focus.
Who is your best pal in Eagles?
And who is your source of inspiration?
God and coach (Keshi)
Who is your best goalkeeper in the world?
There are lots of top class goalkeepers and you must understand that the rating changes faster than on-field players given the sensitive department of goalkeeping. When a goalkeeper makes a mistake it is noticed easily. From Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Czech, Illoris to Vincent Enyeama the world has great goalkeepers and more will be discovered at the World Cup in Brazil.
Oh yes, Enyeama! Oh you don’t know? He is one of the best in the world. If he is the present best goalkeeper in the French League then, he is one of the best in the world. It is not easy to keep clean sheets in as many matches as he has done. We must celebrate our own. Enyeama is one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Thank you for your time and best wishes in this yuletide
I wish you the same. Thank you for speaking to me. it is actually my pleasure.