Super Eagles captain Vincent Enyeama tells NURUDEEN OBALOLA and JOHNNY EDWARD in Uyo that the team will beat South Africa and qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations to reward loyal Nigerian fans
You are so close to qualifying for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, what are your expectations for the match against South Africa?
I don’t really like talking about expectations, but I’ll tell you this: we will beat South Africa. We will be at the Nations Cup next year. South Africa have a very good side and they play very good football, but nobody is going to stop us now, by the grace of God.
We’ve had our tough patch and we’ve come through it, it’s now time to cross the finish line and God will see us through. We won’t let South Africa stop us. I’m very confident we won’t let Nigerians down; you know I’ve never lost at home with the Super Eagles and that won’t change against South Africa.
I don’t like to brag or sound overconfident but we’ve done our home work and we are on course for victory. Our fans deserve to be happy after what we have put them through and we will make them happy.
The team has indeed put the fans through a lot…
We were aware that many Nigerians were not happy with us after some of the games in the Africa Cup of Nation qualifiers and we understand why. I’ll admit to you now that even I wasn’t happy with the way we played at some point in these qualifiers. Fans have a right to expect us to do well after we won the Nations Cup and didn’t do too badly at the World Cup. But we were disappointing and they were not happy.
In football the backing of fans is very important and we know Nigerians love the Super Eagles. We’re happy too that we’re back to winning ways and we hope to complete the job with victory against South Africa.
Many Nigerians thought it was over in Pointe Noire when Congo were awarded a penalty. But you saved it and that was probably the turning point in the match. Were you as worried as millions of Nigerians?
No, I wasn’t worried, and I’m being honest with you. I was confident we would win and the award of that penalty didn’t shake my belief. I told my teammates not to worry, that we would get the result we needed. Fortunately, I saved the penalty and we went on to win. Really, before the game I knew we would win despite the way we were playing.
I always have a positive mindset during a game, so long as it is still salvageable. I remember during the Sudan game in Abuja when it was 1-1 and some of my teammates were worried. I told them to relax, that we still had 20 minutes to score and win the match. We scored twice and won convincingly, and we were all happy.
So, one of your duties as captain is to keep reassuring the players even when things are not going the team’s way?
Like I said, I’m always positive, so being captain has just strengthened my resolve not to give in to negativity. My teammates work as hard as anyone to make the team successful and it’s only natural that I encourage them to keep going even when the situation doesn’t look so good.
You have been nominated for two awards, the BBC African Footballer of the Year award and the CAF African Footballer of the Year award. Do you think you stand a chance winning ahead of Yaya Toure who won last year?
These awards sometimes are about popularity and I feel whoever wins it has the most fans backing them. But if you have millions of fans voting for you then you must have done something right. I’d be very happy if I win it because I believe I deserve it as much as the other nominees.
African football is growing and we now have many world-class players coming out of the continent. It’s a great honour to be considered one of the best players among so many top stars. I’d be very happy to win any of the awards but it’s not always about awards; it’s about giving your best at all times.
I give my absolute best in every game I play for club and country and it’s an additional reward if one gets top awards for one’s efforts.
So keep voting so the at least one of the awards comes to Nigeria.