New Middlesbrough striker, Uche Ikpeazu has revealed that he still craves the ambition of playing for the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the nearest possible future.
Ikpeazu was born in Harrow, London to a Nigerian father and Ugandan mother which means that the 26-year-old forward can dorn the jersey of any of the two countries.
Last October, the then-Uganda coach, Johnathan McKinstry named Ikpeazu in the provisional squad to face South Sudan in an African Cup of Nations qualifying match.
But the pacy striker could not make his debut as the match was postponed and he can still switch his international allegiance to the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Ikpeazu who was recently in Nigeria spoke exclusively to Complete Sports’ reporter, Oluyemi Ogunseyin. Here are excerpts from the concluding part of the interview…
What made you change your mind to represent Uganda, having earlier expressed your readiness and availability to play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria?
To be honest, it is a tough one because I am Nigerian-Ugandan and I am very proud to be one and of course, from a very young age, I had always pointed out the fact that I wanted to represent Nigeria.
I am not going to hide away from that neither am I going to shy away from that because that is something I said in the past but sometimes in football and life, there are circumstances that things just don’t work out.
Sometimes, things just don’t go the way you want them to but you have to make decisions and at the time when Uganda called me up, I was in a difficult point in my football career in terms of I wasn’t playing at Hearts of Midlothian (Scotland).
And the thing is that I was lacking in confidence but the then-Uganda coach, Johnathan McKinstry was pivotal to one of the reasons why I wanted to play for the Ugandan national team.
He called me up to play in the 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers and at that time, I was excited about the prospect of playing for Uganda but unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
And that was not going to be the first of the instances where I was supposed to go and play for Uganda but a couple of other times, I was injured as two days before going to camp, I sprayed my ankle.
And I think that was like a breakpoint for me to review what was really happening and I felt that it wasn’t just meant to be as I was sad that everytime I was called up, an issue would crop up.
But obviously, if I had played for Uganda, I would have represented the country very well and would have been very happy that I did that the same way I play my football.
And that is because at the end of the day, that is my country but it was just difficult for me because I was really really excited about playing for Uganda but obviously, I then moved to Wycombe Wanderers and did well in the SkyBet Championship.
And now that I am at Middlesbrough, my mind is telling me to play for the national team of Nigeria, that is a fact and I believe that I can achieve that because I have got all the tools and the ability to go and do well for the Super Eagles.
I am very different from all the strikers they have there as everyone has his own unique qualities and I believe that I am going to make a big impact while playing for the Super Eagles with the ability I possess.
That is just the situation but like I said, I still love Uganda the same way, that is my mom’s country and you know that Nigeria is my dad’s country.
I am still Ugandan and I love the country and will continue to do charitable works anywhere I can but that is just the situation and that is me being honest.
You were called up to the Ugandan national team for two 2021 African Cup of Nations qualification matches in March 2020 but the games were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means you can still play for any other country of your choice. Does this mean we will still get to see Uche Ikpeazu play for Nigeria in future?
Like I said before, I am still available for one reason or the other, having not managed to play for Uganda and when I was in Nigeria, my good friend, Odion Ighalo was even convincing me that I should play for the Super Eagles with the ability that I have got.
Ighalo really believes in me, it is nice, you know that I have people of that magnitude who really believe in me and what I am about, I want to play for Nigeria, my name is Uche Ikpeazu.
I am a ‘Naija’ boy and that is what I want to do (play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria) and I believe that I can help the country.
Uganda failed in its bid to qualify for the 2021 African Cup of Nations but Nigeria will be in Cameroon. Do you feel the Super Eagles can win the trophy next year? How do you see the Super Eagles under coach Gernot Rohr?
Like I said, it was difficult to see Uganda not qualify for the 2021 African Cup of Nations because I really wanted them to but I think under their new manager, they will do well because he is a very good coach.
That’s talking from what I have seen, I think they will do well and as for Nigeria, I am going to work very hard because I would love to be a part of it (next year’s AFCON by probably playing for Nigeria).
The Super Eagles have got great quality to make a major impact in the competition with the great strikers that they have got as it makes you to boost up your game but I am excited for the season ahead.
Finally, can you tell us the best and worst moments for you in your professional football career?
I think the worst moment of my career was when I got released from Watford and was without a club for some months, it was the most difficult time for me but I will probably look back at that because it was a blessing in disguise.
It made me buckle up as a 21-year-old young man, I just felt like maybe I wasn’t doing the right things and that made me open my eyes, so it was probably a blessing in disguise, I would call that the worst moment of my career.
Obviously, they bought me and I just felt that I had failed, so that was difficult. The best moment of my career like I said earlier is got to be scoring my first goal ever in the SkyBet Championship against Middlesbrough.
You know that the Championship is one of the best football leagues in the world because when I got released from Watford, I told myself that I would love to get back to that level of football.
That has actually been my goal for the last five years, I have worked so hard to get there, so to score my first Championship goal, that was like a reflection of like five years of hardwork and dedication.
Not even like five years, I would say that had always been for the whole of my football career, so that is the best moment of my career.
I don’t get how a guy like this can completely escape notice.
6 feet, 3 inches. 26 yrs old. Pace. Power. Goal scorer. Decent ball skills.
The best thing about him is his energy. Very energetic striker.
Not the finished article. Still has a lot of improvement to make. But when I look at some of the strikers we have in the fold today, I wonder why this guy is not being considered.
This is a prime example of a guy we should have invited against Mexico.
He is perfect for African football due to his size and physicality.
If we don’t check him out, Uganda will soon cap him. To avoid another ADEBAYOR OF TOGO situation, somebody needs to give this guy a call asap.
With the plethora of talent we have in the striker position, it is difficult to see him.
What do you want us to do with Sadiq Umar, Taiwo Awoniyi, Terem Moffi and others. Nigerian football is really growing with this many talents
You have a point, Bros Pompei.
I believe that he is a good player, But my question is….why is he at Middlesbrough? He should try and leave Middlesbrough and go to a bigger club no matter the league provided it is in the first 7 European league.
If you must know, He will be coming to rival players such as Victor Osimhen (Napoli), Paul Onuachu (Genk), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester), Cyriel Dessers (Genk), Josh Maja (Bordeaux/Fulham), Peter Olayinka Oladeji (Slavia Prague) to mention just a few.
Uche Ikpeazu reminds me of Bright Dike. Same physicality, same energy, same desire. Now in my opinion, Bright Dike was a great addition to the squad back then! With him in the attack, you always felt we could score goals. He harassed defenders, made runs, and was a total nuisance. If Ikpeazu can do this, then he should be given a chance.
Note, Dike did not play in a “top 5 league”. He did not even play anywhere in Europe. He played all his football in the MLS. So, sometimes it is not where he plays that defines a player. Sometimes, a gem can be found in unlikely places. Let us do the needful.
Bros pompei…..Bright Dike made it to the SE because of Coach Stephen Keshi.
End of Story!
Dr. Simon, that is true. However, Bright came in and put in some impressive performances. E.g his games against Italy and Catalonia (Spain in disguise), and he scored beautiful goals in each game. Keshi must have seen something in him. You know what they say – GAME RECOGNIZE GAME. Keshi being a defender saw qualities in Dike that defenders are not comfortable with. His size, physicality, pace and desire was a problem for most defenders.
This guy seems better than some strikers we have already…
Jimbo, at least let us try him and see. He looks a good prospect.