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    Friday, February 23, 2024

    Keshi Secret of Our 2013 AFCON Success – Oboabona

    In this interview with ABIODUN ADEWALE, 2013 AFCON winner, Godfrey Oboabona lifts the lid on home-based players involvement in Nigeria’s famous Nations Cup win as well as his return to NPFL side Sunshine Stars

    From Sunshine Stars, you made the 2013 AFCON-winning squad as one of the six home-based players. What was it like being in that team as an NPFL player?

    First, I have to give thanks to God and I will always give the late coach Stephen Keshi the credit for believing and having confidence in the home-based players. By the help of God, we won and it was down to the confidence of the coach in us. If he didn’t, no matter how good the home-based players were then, he would insist on the overseas-based players. So, the team had confidence and he always encouraged us.

    You played at the 2014 World Cup afterwards. How much did that mean to you?

    Winning the AFCON is one the best moments of my career and playing at the World Cup was also another highpoint. So, being an African champion with the Super Eagles and also playing at the World Cup is no mean feat. Again, I will give thanks to God for making it possible.

    In those two years, who are the players you played against that you can’t forget the encounters you had with them?

    There are lots of them. At the 2013 Nations Cup, I played against different players like Didier Drogba, Solomon Kalou, Yaya Toure, Seydou Keita and a lot of them. I am more particular about the Ivory Coast players because it was like the best game we played at the AFCON. They were really hot individually then and they were stars at their different clubs. During preparations for the World Cup and the tournament proper, there was Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Fernando Torres, Edison Cavani, Luis Suarez. I can’t remember all of them because we played against a lot of teams. I remember we also played Catalonia then at Espanyol Stadium. Then, if we played a draw, we won because we were playing away. There was Cesc Fabregas and many others. So, playing against these people alone boosted my morale that football is a matter of self-determination and mentality.

    What was the secret to the eventual success of the team at the AFCON?

    I’m sure you also heard that the Nigeria Football Federation bought our return tickets before the quarter-finals against Ivory Coast. After dinner, they just came and started sharing them. We were stunned and started thinking if we had been walked over. Like, how could they? Did they lose confidence in us or what? Then the coach told us not to mind them. He reminded us that when we lose, they don’t respect us but when we win, we would see a lot of messages and felicitations. The confidence and support they have given the Super Eagles at the last two tournaments, when I was there, we didn’t get 10 per cent of it. It was just coach Keshi that was giving us the morale and asking us to focus. That was the secret.

    How did the team bond to erase any inferiority complex on the part of the home-based players?

    In fact, I would once again say thank you to all the members of that squad, Mikel Obi, Joseph Yobo, Vincent Enyeama, Brown Ideye. All the players were united and they didn’t give us the feeling of being home-based. When you see us in training, you would think we had been together for six years but we didn’t spend a month together. So, the unity was there and that was also down to the coach. He told us, ‘I brought these six home-based players to come and play, I will just take five good foreign-based players to join them and if we lose, we lose.’ So, that alone put everyone on their toes. Everyone gave their best. Imagine someone like Mikel competing with a player like Rueben Gabriel. It was very healthy.

    What do you think went wrong at the last AFCON in Ivory Coast?

    I am a footballer and as far as the Super Eagles is concerned too, I am not retired yet, so I won’t criticise. So, what I can say is that, what I saw in the way we play is that we didn’t play like the attacking team that we are known for. Even if we are playing against Spain, they will reckon us as an attacking team as well. When they mention our stars up front, they would be careful at the back too. But when you sit back, you give the opponents confidence. The formation we played at the AFCON is not Eagles-like. From the beginning till the end we sat back, which is not our style. We got to the final with that style though, so we have to give the coach credit as well because he knew what he had. And I think he played that way so he won’t be disgraced.

    Eleven years after you left, you played in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Croatia and Georgia. Now you are back at Sunshine Stars, what motivated your return?

    For the past two years that I’ve been without a club, I was hoping to get something but it didn’t happen. Sunshine Stars have been in touch since then too. So, this is like the third or fourth time we’ve spoken about it and when they told me coach Kennedy Boboye wanted me too, I was glad that a coach that has history with the club just like me, and also won the league before at another club and that has worked with the national team wanted me in his team. For him to believe in me, I have to give him 100 per cent again. Also, the affection of the people of Ondo State is one of the things that motivate me.

    A lot of people expected to see you in action against Kwara United but you didn’t play. What happened?

    I’m 100 per cent ready. I’ve been in camp with them and I was in the lineup for the last game but unfortunately on match-day, I was told my registration was not yet done. So, I have to wait. When I’m on the field, I play with my whole heart and I want to give my all again.

    So, what are the things you hope to bring back into the team?

    They started the season before I joined them, so I’m trying to give my best with the team and give the players some more confidence and enlighten them as I was taught too, so that we can push the team up because right now their position in the table is not too good. I’m sure we will achieve something tangible and they can move on from there as well without me.

    You were without a club since you left Dinamo Batumi of Georgia in 2021 and that was sending a signal of retirement. How did you cope and what were you involved in?

    No, I’m not retired and as a player, I had to jeep training and be fit. I had offers coming my way but things didn’t happen and I believe God’s time is the best. Sometimes I work in the gym, sometimes I’m on the field as well. I was just living life, keeping fit and waiting for the right things to happen.

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