It might be controversial to some to include former Super Eagles striker, Ikechukwu Uche as one of Nigeria’s greatest strikers looking at the abundance of talents over the years.
Strikers are goalscorers and are measured with the number of goals scored in their career, if you fail to score, irrespective of your technical ability or how good your passing is, it doesn’t add up.
Rashidi Yekini till date is considered the greatest striker to ever adorn the green and white jersey, scoring 37 goals in 58 appearances, averaging 0.63 goals per game. Uche is ranked the 4th highest in Nigeria with 19 goals in 46 appearances, averaging 0.41 goal per game. He is behind the great Segun Odegbami and Yakubu Aiyebgeni with 23 and 21 goals respectively.
In a recent interview on Comfort 95.1fm with Mighty George, the striker feels his time with the Eagles was a success despite failures and disappointment and missing a chance to play at the FIFA World Cup.
Ike Uche was dropped by Coach Lars Lagerback from the 23-man squad that travelled to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, despite returning early from an ACL injury and declared himself fit for the Mundial.
“The dream of every player is to play for his country and win as many titles as possible,” Uche said. “At the time I was coming from an ACL injury, I recovered on time to play but the people who picked the team didn’t see me fit enough to go to the World Cup.
“My dream was to represent Nigeria at the highest level, but if what I want doesn’t come, I don’t let it affect me, life goes on, if I don’t play in a game, I just take it as what it is. Inside of me, I ask myself questions why these things happened but sometimes you just have to let it go.
“My brother Kalu impressed me in the tournament, ending as the highest goal scorer. He was one of the people that did well in South Africa. When you see your brother doing well, there is nothing else to do than to be happy for him.”
The prolific striker played alongside some great players in the national team but says playing in the same team with his brother gave him joy and satisfaction.
“Playing alongside my brother in the national team makes me very great, it’s not something you see often, any time we play together gives me joy. It is one of my dreams to play in the same team with him, it never happened at the club level, but I take playing with him in the national team as one of them,” he enthused.
Made his debut for Nigeria in 2007, scoring his first goal in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Lesotho at the Warri Township Stadium in a match the Super Eagles won 2-0.
The former Iwuanyanwo Nationale striker was part of the victorious 2013 Afcon team that conquered Africa in South Africa despite making four appearances in that tournament without scoring.
The 36-year old quit international football in 2014 after seven successful years terrorising defences wearing the green and white jersey, but remained eternally grateful for the opportunity.
“In football you never get to be in the national team forever, others were before you and when you are there, you must also make way for others. It is like a school, the Super Eagles will always remain.
“I have no regret for the 7 years I played for the Super Eagles; I was happy and I enjoyed it, the bad and sad experiences won’t take you to anywhere, so I left them behind.
“But ofcourse it’s always sad to see a good player for one reason or the other decides to quit the national team, we have to respect that decision. The next person that will come will also face this pressure and even the ones before us went through this.
Playing for the three times African Champion is very difficult and demanding, that’s why many players who received the call up to the national team finds it daunting to meet the demands of this football-crazy nation.
“Pressure will not stop in Nigeria, sometimes you don’t understand it, but this is how it is, our fans get happy with just a little and get upset with just a little.”
Uche scored 19 goals in 46 appearances for the Super Eagles but says playing for Nigeria comes with pressure and expectations.
“The pressure comes from the position, it depends on how you take it, the pressure is always on the striker, it is left for you to manage the pressure well. There will be a time you score and also a time you have a goal drought, it depends on how you manage it. The average fan wants you to score.”
Ikechukwu Uche also said players who are over 30 years of age are always likely to have limited playing time in the national team because of the younger generations, following recent comment by former teammate Brown Ideye.
“It is not only in Nigeria, this is what is happening every else, football is changing. If you check teams now, it’s difficult to see so many players who are over the age of 30 playing. For example, AC Milan back in the days had many players who were over 30 years, but it is changing now, more for the younger ones, when you are 18 – 20, they tend to give you more opportunities, it’s just how football is moving.
The former Villareal striker acknowledged Nigeria have very good young players who will need time and patience to deliver, while also stating that having these players does not guarantee success.
“We have good players at the moment, these new breeds are good and still trying to come together as a team, we must give them time to click as a team. We hope we can get it right.
“Sometimes having too many players doesn’t help, it might put the coach in a difficult situation making decisions, but it is good. Back in the days we had good players but now we have a very large number of players, it will be tough for the coaches but we hope they use them well.
“Having too many players doesn’t guarantee any title, but I hope Nigerians can give Osimhen and other young players enough time fulfill their potentials.”
He might not have won many trophies in his career but he constantly delivered for the national team. It is a shocker that he is ranked ahead of great strikers like Samson Siasia, Daniel Amokachi, Julius Aghahowa, Nwankwo Kanu and even Obafemi Martins.