Nigeria Professional Football League top scorer for last season and Rivers United striker Chijioke Akuneto says he believe he can bring something different to the Super Eagles if given the opportunity.
Akuneto emerged the top marks man after netting 19 goals which helped Rivers United clinch the league title.
And in an exclusive interview with Complete Sports, Akuneto expressed confidence that with the experience he has garnered working with some top coaches in the NPFL, he has what it takes to make an impact for the Eagles.
Akuneto also gave his thoughts about the just concluded league, his preferred position, partner with Ishaq Rafiu, playing in the CAF Champions League and monetary reward from Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
“I want to help my club go as far as possible in the CAF Champions League and to get an invite to the Super Eagles because I’m confident in my abilities,” he said.
“I also think I can bring something different to the Super Eagles so all i need is a chance to prove myself. I have worked under some of the best coaches in the league like Fidelis Ilechukwu and now Eguma.
“These experiences have improved my game and I’m ready for the challenge that the national team represents. It is a lifetime ambition to play for Nigeria and I want to seize the opportunity with both hands.”
On his target of scoring 20 goals:“I feel so great. I thank God for how the season went. I couldn’t have asked for a better season.
“I will say that I’m satisfied with what I have been able to achieve because even though I worked hard for this but nothing is certain until you are able to achieve it so scoring 19 goals is a big deal for me.“
On when he started believing that Rivers United might actually emerge winners of the league:“When I joined Rivers United, they were already in the CAF Champions League so I missed the registration. Immediately we crashed out of the competition, the club chairman Barrister Green called the players together and told them that the only way to compensate for the early exit was to win a title for the club and people of Rivers state so the focus must be on the league. I daresay that was the birth of the dream but the game which gave us the believe must be the 1-0 victory away at Katsina United. I can say that game gave us 70percent belief because it was one of our hardest games.”
On his preferred position on the pitch and the secret of his success with his strike partner, Ishaq Rafiu:”My best position is playing in the hole behind the main striker. That is where I think I am at my effective best.”
“From the first day I joined Rivers United, Ishaq and I have struck it off. If you see our combination on the pitch, you’ll think that we have been playing together for years. I enjoy playing with him because he’s not only skillful but also very intelligent. I’m sure if you ask him he would tell you that he likes playing with me too.”
On playing in the Champions League and why he feels Rivers United will do well in the competition:“We have three things going for us. I see top quality players in every department of the team. We have a tactically sound coach in Stanley Eguma who we fondly call Fabio Capello with his backroom staff and thirdly, we have the support and motivation of the state governor which has propelled us this far. So, to answer your question, yes we are prepared and ready to do better this year.”
And on governor Wike’s promise of $20,000 for each player for winning the league, $40,000 if the team get out of the group stages of the Champions League and a two-week tour of Spain:“In terms of motivation, I will score Rivers United 100 percent! When you are training, not even competitive game, and you remember that there’s something in your bank account then you are energized to do extra without pressure. We are quite confident that all the promises will be kept. No shaking.”
Speaking further, Akuneto expressed sadness following his former club MFM’s relegation to the lower division.
“When I heard that they were relegated, I must confess I felt so very bad. My heart is still with MFM and I’m still in touch with some of my ex-teammates who are still with the team. I used to implore them to motivate the younger players to improve the fortunes of the club but some of the things they shared with me are not stuff I want to disclose publicly. So let me just state my unhappiness about the fact that they have gone down and pray that they bounce back very very soon.”
And commenting on the sort of improvements he has noticed in the Nigerian league in terms of quality of play, organisation and officiating, he said:“To be honest, there’s been tremendous improvement in the quality of play and officiating. Game after game, I’m amazed at the quality of players we faced and the officiating has improved considerably from what it used to be when I was a much younger player. There were four or five other teams that could have won the title apart from us. Enyimba, Rangers, Plateau United and Remo Stars, who finished third on the log in their first year back in the top flight, all had solid teams. The organisation can get better but I think we have seen some improvement in that area too.”Copyright © 2021 Completesports.com All rights reserved. The information contained in Completesports.com may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of Completesports.com.