“I have all eyes on me…” – Junior Lokosa

Kano Pillars striker Junior Lokosa says the “challenge” of playing continental football where he would be able to put himself in the shop window before an international audience is an added motivation for him and his team as they get set to take on Enugu Rangers in the final of the Aiteo Cup.

Winners of the final to be decided on Wednesday at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba would be Nigeria’s representatives in the 2018/2019 CAF Confederations Cup and Lokosa says playing on the continent for Pillars “would be a great achievement for me”.

“Kano Pillars are always trying to play on the continent and being in the final is an opportunity for Kano Pillars and playing on the continent is a big challenge for me too to keep building myself higher and higher,” the Badagry born striker told busybuddiesng.com.

“To play on the continent would be a great achievement for me,” Lokosa added. “I know that there’ll be a lot of eyes on me on the continent but it’s something I’m used to but playing on the continent would be very good for me.

“I just want to take this opportunity that has been given to me to take the team higher and I believe that at the end of the day we deserve to play on the continent because we have worked so hard.”

It has been a whirlwind year and a half for the Pillars forward featuring an incredibly meteoric rise from playing in the third tier for First Bank FC of Lagos to getting signed by Kano Pillars where he finished the season as top scorer in the league and then making his Super Eagles debut in a friendly match against the Democratic Republic of Congo in June. He was included in the 35 man provisional World Cup list and even though he didn’t make the final cut, Lokosa is thankful for the “privilege” of playing for his country saying the call-up afforded him the opportunity “to learn from the big boys in the camp.”

He is now faced with one of the toughest challenges of his career in trying to help Pillars win a trophy that has eluded them since they were establihed in 1990. This would be only the second time Pillars are making the final in their history after they finished runners up to El-Kanemi Warriors in 1991 in the old Challenge Cup and Lokosa says that drought has filled the team with a craving to bring the Cup home.

“We need the Cup badly,” Lokosa says. “It has been 27 years [we haven’t won the trophy] if I’m not mistaken and we will do everything to win.

“I know it would be a very tough match for us because Rangers are our rivals but we are ready.”

The 25-year-old is coming off a season where he earned the golden boot by virtue of scoring 19 goals – the same as Wednesday’s opponents, Rangers, managed in the entire season in the league – in just 23 games and would surely have gone on to break Mfon Udoh’s record for the most goals scored in a league season set in 2013/2014 if the league hadn’t been truncated. With a further 3 goals to his name in this year’s Aiteo Cup, Lokosa knows his goal-scoring prowess and reputation means he would likely be singled out for special attention from Rangers’ defenders. But the forward says he’s working to ensure he is well prepared for any extra attention.

“Right now I have all eyes on me so it will not be easy, so I have to train more and concentrate more and do my best both in training and in the game.

“It won’t be easy but I’ll try my best and I’ll do everything possible to make sure I achieve whatever I am looking for [in the] final.”

Beyond the Aiteo Cup final, there has been a lot of interest in Lokosa’s future career path and after two unsuccessful trials in Europe with Bulgarian club PFC Ludogorets and SK Brann of Norway, the forward prefers to focus on the present and leave the future to providence.

“For now I can’t say anything on any transfer but I leave my future and my career in the hands of God. I believe that God’s plan is the best for me when the right time comes for me, I will go.”