Super Eagles and CSKA Moscow winger Ahmed Musa in this interview with our editor DESMOND EKWUEME says beyond any other wish he will be satisfied to be in the World Cup squad. Excerpt…
The World Cup is just months away, what is playing up in your mind?
Nothing other than praying to be among the 23 players that will be in Brazil.
Are you suggesting that you will be satisfied just being among the 23?
That to me is a massive achievement. Any player that finds himself in that squad should count himself very lucky. I hope to be among the lucky 23.
You called them lucky 23?
Yes that is best coinage. It is the best expression. You seem not to understand that our country is so blessed with talent spread across the globe. There players who are yet to be noticed and they may gatecrash into the team, there is huge hope for the home-based especially those of them that excel during the CHAN tournament and of course there is the regular faces in the main team,. So you can see that whoever makes the World Cup squad should count himself lucky.
You mentioned the home-based, what are your expectations during the CHAN tournament?
I believe in the home-based team. I was part of them a couple of years ago. I know the stuff this team is made of. I am happy for them considering the enormous confident injected into the team and individual players by the coach. The players now understand that their future in the team depends on their individual performance. So they have their future in their hands. So they are bound to do well. Of course they also understand that once they excel in the tournament it could be automatic invitation into the World Cup squad. Most of us who are in the maintain team today are there on account of our successful performance at the AFCON tournament. So the CHAN Eagles have a big chance in the World Cup squad.
Do you think the CHAN Eagles can win the tournament?
This was exactly the same doubt and cynicism cast on us before and during the AFCON tournament and we came back with the trophy. I think it is now an established fact that each time our teams are underrated prior to any tournament or championship we end up doing better. And personally glad that the coach has taken away huge pressure from the boys by saying that he is not expecting to win the trophy. I share that same opinion because tournaments are not all about winning trophies even though we want to win them. At times it is meant to test the abilities of the players and how they would respond to bigger challenges like the World Cup. You can now understand why I earlier said the players will be spurred on by the fact that they understand that excelling at the CHAN tournament could guarantee any of them a chance to make the World Cup squad. So to answer your question directly I am not expecting the trophy but I expect our boys to put up a good show that will do them and all of us proud.
Don’t you think that winning the AFCON tournament also played in South Africa will put the boys under pressure at CHAN?
Well they just have to up their game. They have no choice. They cannot allow the pressure of AFCON success to weigh them down. Rather they should see it as an advantage to run down other opponents who surely will show some respect to the team. They know that we are African champions and the least expected of them is a semi-final finish if they cannot win the trophy.
Are you setting a target already?
No! Not at all. But truth is that this team has the capacity to reach the semi-finals.
Back to the 23 World Cup players, you talked about gatecrashers, can you mention a player that can steal the show as a gatecrasher before the final list of 23 is released?
I don’t have any in mind but I know that one or two players could spring surprises. That is all about the make up of the World Cup.
Do you consider Bright Dike as a gatecrasher?
He won’t be by my considerations and standards. Don’t forget that he has been part of this team before the AFCON tournament. In fact he was dropped at the dying minutes. So he is part of the main team and cannot be considered a gatecrasher if he makes the list of 23 for Brazil.
Sincerely speaking now, what are your chances of making the list of 23?
The journey is still far even though we are looking at six months from now. So we can only keep praying because a lot will still happen between now and then. However the coach has made it abundantly clear that there is no automatic shirt for the AFCON Eagles in his World Cup plan which is a welcome development since they are two different tournaments. He has said it time and time again every player will have to fight for a place in the final list of 23. That again to me is fair enough. So we are all starting afresh and that comes with a lot of sacrifice and commitment. One can only pray and hope for the best. You can now appreciate why I said I will be satisfied being a member of that squad.
With the presence of Victor Moses your position in the wings seems threatened, what do you think?
I am not under any threat. Don’t forget that two of us were in the AFCON squad and God favored us to play key roles in the team’s success. So it would be wrong for any of us to feel threatened by the other’s presence. Our prayers and hope will be to make the journey for Brazil and hopefully continue from where we stopped at the AFCON tournament.
Do you see Eagles shocking the world in Brazil?
Let’s get to Brazil first.
Are you not optimistic?
I am an optimist. If not for any other thing, our success story in South Africa at the AFCON tournament taught me a great deal of lessons. But even at that I will want to be in Brazil first before thinking of how far we will go in the tournament.
What is your take on the draws held recently?
I have said it repeatedly no team in world football is small. No team should be categorized as minnow. Our opponents talking about Argentina, Bosnia and Iran are good hence they qualified for the World Cup in the first place. So we must respect them.
But bookmakers are not giving us a chance to beat Argentina?
That was why I said let’s get to Brazil first. This may be a World Cup of surprises.
Yes, expect World Cup of surprises. The world is changing gradually. From politics to any other field of human endeavors things are changing. At the last World Cup Ghana was the surprise team. Who knew what would have happened if they had made it to the semis. So let’s keep our fingers crossed. Those who are tipping Argentina to beat us may be shocked to see Argentina out in the group stage. Some key players in all the teams may not be available for all the games. Some will suffer card offences and others injuries and yet other may have internal wrangling like we witnessed in the case of France and it may affect the chances of the teams. That is the make of the World Cup. No team is sure of the trophy and that will create room for surprises.
Sometime ago, you were linked with a move to England, what happened?
Where I am going or where I want to go does not really matter. What matters is what I am doing I am presently. I hope to continue doing well with my present club and hopefully better things will follow later. For now I am happy where I am.
Thanks for speaking with us
You are welcome any time.