Super Eagles defender Elderson Echiejile tells JOHNNY EDWARD that he now feels the pains of Nigeria not qualifying for the 2015 AFCON. In this interview, the Monaco star believes that Ghana could go all the way to win the tournament billed to kick off in Equatorial Guinea this weekend…
The 2015 African Nations Cup kicks off this weekend in Equatorial Guinea, Elderson, what are your thoughts on the competition?
It’s going to be interesting for the teams partaking in the tournament but it is a pity that those of us from Nigeria will not be able to join them to enjoy the tournament. If we had qualified for the tournament, we would have also been preparing for our first game by now. You will be asking how prepared is the team for the title defence but that’s history now, I pray we learn from the mistakes and don’t make them again. I’m not happy we did not qualify. It was very painful and disappointing missing out on the Nations Cup this year but there is always room to get it right and I believe we will be better and stronger.
You were in the squad that failed to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup but we bounced back to win it in 2013 when South Africa hosted it. Now Nigeria failed to defend the title in 2015, are you saying we will bounce back to win the trophy a fourth time in 2017?
Laughs…That’s not what I saying anyway but we will stop that ugly trend of qualifying for one and missing out on the other. Missing out on the Nations Cup means that I have to focus more on my club career and ensure I become a better player for my country and my club.
Tell us what you missed when the Super Eagles failed to qualify in 2012?
It’s always a big miss not qualifying for a major tournament like the Nations Cup. It depends on the perspective of every individual player that represents the country. But for me, the joy of representing the nation at such tournament is immeasurable.
Aside from the monetary gains, the value it adds to you at club level when you are called up for national duties is massive.
It also makes one feel fulfill being part of history makers with your national team which I can say with all humility I have been part of.
It would have been my fourth appearances at the Nations Cup if the Eagles didn’t miss out on those two editions but all the same, I am happy with what I have achieved and I hope to break more grounds with the team.
So how did you feel when Ivorian international, Lacina Traore waved you goodbye for AFCON duties. Or did he mock you?
No, he did not mock me. As an African brother, he only wished both of us could be there to represent our countries. Of Course, I felt bad that I will not be there with my country. The Eagles will learn from this and stage a big comeback to dominate football again.
The Home Eagles last Sunday lost to Cote D’Ivoire in a warm up game in UAE, how would you rate their performance?
I think they had a good game looking at how they played and the quality of team they faced.
So who are you tipping to win the AFCON?
Seriously, this is a difficult one. Every team in this year’s AFCON stands a chance. You can see that there are no pushovers in African football anymore. I think Ghana can win this.
If Nigeria had qualified, do you think they can win the title back-to-back?
There’s a possibility.
With the Eagles missing out on the AFCON for a second time in recent time, do you think this will affect the player’s market value?
Not at all.
Don’t you think Nigerian football is on a downward slide?
I disagree on that. Our football is not dwindling. We must work hard to ensure our football bounce back.
What has been your personal football highlight of 2014?
To be honest, I can’t think of any particular highlight. It was a long year, with many games; we didn’t win any trophies, I didn’t go to the World Cup and we didn’t qualify for the Nations Cup but I think it was a successful year with lots of positive results joining Monaco at the beginning of the year and also reaching the Champions League second round.
When I think about highlights, I always like to think in terms of the achievements at team level, not about one particular player. Still, if I have to pick a great moment, it was missing out on Brazil 2014 World Cup.
What do make of Cristiano Ronaldo winning the Ballon D’or for 2014?
I always like to give advantage to the players who have won some big trophies in the year in review. So, my vote would go to Cristiano Ronaldo and I’m glad he won.
My personal favourite always was and still is Lionel Messi, but he didn’t win any trophies this year.
Talking about the Champions League, Monaco will face Arsenal in the second round next month, how prepared is Elderson?
It’s not all about Elderson but Monaco. We earned our right to be there and we will prove that we face them. They are currently on the high now same as we are so we are not losing sleep over Arsenal. Arsenal is a big team and they know the quality of opposition they will be playing as well. We played in the Emirates Cup earlier this season although that won’t be a defining factor. It is going to be a tight game. Both teams have same chances but I believe we will come out tops.
Monaco are currently placed fifth on the log in the French league. Do you think your team stands a chance of pushing for the title this season with the 11 points gap?
The second half of the season has just kicked off. 11 points is a massive one but our aim at the moment is to be in the top three, anything can happen from there. It is very achievable. Like I stated regarding or chances of doing well in the UCL, nothing is impossible. It looks pretty good at the moment as we are unbeaten in our last five games. We are gradually finding our feet now and if we can maintain that who says the title can’t return to Monaco after a decade.
Thanks for taking time to talk to us.
And I wish you all the best against Nantes on Saturday.
Thanks and Cheers.