As the crucial qualifier for CHAN 2018 lurks, Emmanuel Etim takes an off the field moment to converse with team captain, Ikechukwu Ezenwa for busybuddiesng.com – An insight into how the goalkeeper luxuriates when the gloves come off.
He began his professional career with Ocean Boys, later played for Heartland before his switch to Ifeanyi Ubah FC in 2016. Ezenwa was a member of the Nigeria U-23 team at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The rest is history…
The excerpt begins…
Emmanuel Etim: How optimistic are you heading into the CHAN 2018 qualifiers?
Ezenwa: Very. It will be difficult, but we are focused, and ready for the challenge.
Emmanuel Etim: What’s your take on the current Nigeria Professional Football League season, are Plateau United champions elect?
Ezenwa: The league is far from over. It’s all about belief and total concentration. Away games are more important than home matches as a win guarantees upward movement; major reason Plateau United sit atop the log because they’ve got a good away strategy, but it’s not over, anyone can still emerge the winner.
Emmanuel Etim: Do you aspire to play club football outside Nigeria?
Ezenwa: The league is good, and has exposed me to the world – the reason why wherever I go to play I always talk about the League Management Company (LMC) and the league. But if a deal comes, I would have to leave. I have paid my dues and done my bit.
Emmanuel Etim: Who is your favorite goalkeeper?
Ezenwa: I have always had tremendous respect for Enyeama, he is a mentor. Buffon remains my all time favourite. The Italian has set a mark which defies the aging process for goalkeepers.
Emmanuel Etim: Debate about Ronaldo and Messi, if you were to choose one to be part of your team, who will it be?
Ezenwa: I would always pick Ronaldo. Messi is good, but personally, I derive joy having Ronaldo in my team.
Emmanuel Etim: How do you relax?
Ezenwa: I love listening to music. To be exact, Christian music composed and performed by Chioma Jesus. Her meditation and worship style mashed with real stories inspires me. It gives me more strength knowing that regardless of the situation, I can make it.
Emmanuel Etim: What is your favorite food?
Ezenwa: *Laughs* my favorite food is swallow – Garri with Egusi soup.
Ikechuwku Ezenwa alongside 19 others were selected by Coach Salisu Yusuf for Sunday’s 2018 African Nations Championship qualifying match away to the Benin Republic at the Stade de l’Amitie. The return leg is scheduled for the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano on Saturday, 19th August.
Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (FC IfeanyiUbah); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC); Dele Ajiboye (Plateau United)
Defenders: Orji Kalu (Rangers International); Stephen Eze (FC IfeanyiUbah); Ariwachukwu Emmanuel (Akwa United); Chima Akas (Enyimba FC); Nasiru Sani (Katsina United); Osas Okoro (Rangers International)
Midfielders: Hafiz Aremu (Akwa United); Raphael Ayagwa (Lobi Stars); Ifeanyi Ifeanyi (Akwa United); Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars); Samuel Mathias (El-Kanemi Warriors); Alhassan Ibrahim (Akwa United)
Forwards: Sikiru Olatubosun (MFM FC); Thomas Zenke (Nasarawa United); Stephen Odey (MFM FC); Kingsley Eduwo (Lobi Stars); Ifeanyi George (Rangers International)
Nigeria failed to reach the finals of the first two editions of the competition but won bronze at the third edition in 2014 – followed by a group stage exit at the fourth edition in Rwanda early last year.
Captained by the flawless Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Nigerians can rest assured that not only qualification is guaranteed; a proper outing at the 5th edition next year looks a certainty.