Former Akwa United midfielder Ifeanyi Ifeanyi says Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr motivated him to move abroad in order to make the national team squad.
Ifeanyi moved from Akwa United to Mash’al Mubarek FC in the Uzbekistan Super League in February 2020, after a failed spell with Algerian club, ES Setif in 2019.
In an online interaction with journalists on Monday, May 11, Ifeanyi spoke on his experience with the national team and believe players in the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, will fit into the Super Eagles squad if given opportunity, maintaining that his interactions with Rohr motivated him to move abroad.
“Everything in life is time and opportunity, NPFL players are very good if they are given chances they will fit in. Some of the players playing for the Super Eagles once played in the NPFL, Shehu Abdullahi, Ahmed Musa, Oghenekaro Etebo and others played in the domestic league, so if the players are given an opportunity, they will do better.
“When I was in the Eagles camp, Rohr made me understand that five players are ahead of me (Mikel Obi, Wilfred Ndidi, Etebo, Ogenyi Onazi, John Ogu, and Mikel Agu) and it will be difficult for him to bench any of them for a player playing for Akwa United, I understood with him and that motivated me to work hard for a contract outside the country to become a professional and I believe my time will come when the coach recalls me back to the national team,” Ifeanyi said.
The 24-year old further stated that the Uzbekistan Super League is more competitive than the NPFL with improve facilities and intensity despite saying the Nest of Champions in Uyo is better than any stadium in Uzbekistan.
“The training facilities in Uzbekistan are far better than what we have in the NPFL but the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium is better than any stadium in Uzbekistan. In Nigeria you hardly see teams go to the gym, we have different types of training for goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers, all of these people training in different days, but in the NPFL, the facilities are not there and such training programmes are not possible.
“The Uzbekistani league is more competitive than the NPFL because all matches are on TV, we play on natural turf and you must run for 90 minutes, if you don’t work hard, you cannot outplay your opponent, the weather changes and sometimes it is hotter than in Nigeria. I played in the NPFL and I can boldly say that the Uzbekistan league is better.”
The former MFM midfielder also said he chose to move to Uzbekistan ahead of a potential move to Poland, knowing he will have playing chances.
“When I left Nigeria, I had an offer from Poland but I wasn’t their first choice. I chose Uzbekistan because I wanted to avoid what happened in ES Setif which the coach did not like black players, the club President was the person who signed me and I suffered. But here the coach and management wanted me to join after watching my videos and I am happy that I came.
“Since I came here, I am very happy, the league gives more opportunity for players to be seen all over the world because all the matches are on TV. Before I came here, I had the impression that the league is not strong but I can tell you that it is very competitive, if you don’t work hard, you cannot outplay your opponent.”
Ifeanyi believes that Nigerian players playing abroad should help develop the NPFL by returning to the league when they approach the end of their careers, noting that such move will help boost the profile of the domestic league.
“It is normal that Nigerian players should return to the NPFL and play at least a season before hanging their boots to help boost the profile of the league, it is common practice with Brazilian players and I think if Nigerian players start doing that, the local league will get more attention. When the time comes, I will come back here and give a season or two before retiring.”
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