Super Eagles and Enugu Rangers midfielder, Ejike Uzoenyi is a key player in Stephen Keshi’s CHAN squad in South Africa. The diminutive left-footed player just returned from a brief stint in France. He opens up to our correspondent on why his Ligue 1 deal failed and his desire to win the CHAN tournament. Excerpt…
Why did you return from France? What happened?
Things did not just work out fine and naturally I have to retrace my steps back to my roots. I thank God we have a League that one can fall back on more so, I have made my mark, so it easy for me to rejoin my former team. I must also thank the management of my team for reabsorbing me when I returned.
How will you compare our League and the French Ligue 1?
The difference is clear. In all areas you cannot compare both. Talk about facilities, the fans, funding, welfare or standard, you just name. They are way ahead. Perhaps the only thing that one can give credit to our League for is the fact that our players are resilient. That of course is due to our economic situation.
From Enugu Rangers to France and back to Enugu Rangers, how does this make you feel?
Well like I said earlier I am glad to return to my roots. I hope to utilize my brief experience abroad to help the team and also to relaunch my career.
Relaunch your career?
Yes! I still hope to take my career abroad. The fact that the France deal did not work out as I expected does not mean that I will give up hope. I will keep fighting by improving in my game to ensure I attract better offers for myself.
Do you regret your French move?
Not at all. It was an experience worth it. I have learnt not to regret anything in life. God knows why the France deal came and why it ended the way it did. I now know one or two things that will help in future.
If a French club comes for you again, will you grab the offer?
Yes of course. The snag is that I will look before I leap the next time. I will take my time to go through the contract terms before jumping at the offer.
Are you suggesting that you were lured into the last deal which packed up?
I am not saying that. But I won’t repeat the mistakes I made in my first move.
Was your problem in France caused by the agent who arranged your deal?
I won’t want us to talk about this. I am just happy that I am back at my old club and everything is working fine.
You are heading for South Africa fir CHAN tournament, what are your expectations?
Obviously I hope to work hard to ensure I compliment the efforts of my teammates so that we can win the tournament. For me I am desperate to win it because it will make it a double. Just about this time last year I was part of history winning the AFCON trophy. I hope and pray that history will repeat itself if you permit me to use that phrase.
Talking about history, it was also in South Africa that the AFCON Trophy was won last, what challenge does this bring to you?
It is not about challenge but about history. South Africa has a place in the history of our football. Should we win the CHAN tournament it will further buttress this point. I am glad that the atmosphere of South Africa and the football culture of the people are not strange to a few of us who were part of the AFCON history and are in this team. We (talking about myself, Egwueke, Agbim) will try to bring our experience to bear on the rest of the squad to propel us to winning the tournament. I think that is the real challenge for us.
Do you sincerely think this team can win the CHAN tournament?
Doubting us gives us great confidence. It is better we are underrated by our fans at home because that was exactly what transpired in 2013 during the AFCON tournament yet we went ahead to win it. I just hope history can repeat itself. I believe we have a team to win this tournament.
What about key players who are injured, won’t you miss them?
That question should go to the coach. But I strongly believe he knows what he is doing. Whoever is doubting the ability of our coach at this point is an enemy of Nigerian football. I guess he can achieve result with what he is able to come up with. He has gotten replacements for those who will miss the tournament due to injuries.
But your coach says he is not going into CHAN tournament to win, so why are you so confident?
Our coach does not like raising hopes or making empty promises. He does not like noise but desires for his work to speak for him. Yes he may have said that he is targeting the CHAN trophy but we the players want to win it for him. Here is a man who has elevated Nigerian football. Here is a man who gave the home-based players hope and here is a man who is a father figure to every home-based footballer including those in the grassroots. We the home-based players have resolved to play and die for Keshi in any tournament or competition we enter for. He deserves our loyalty because he built it in the first place. Don’t forget that before Keshi resumed duties as our chief coach, the hope of the home-based players was dead. He revived it and today more and more home-based players are attracting and getting offers in Europe. I am one of those who benefitted and I am happy telling the story today.
Thanks for speaking with us