John Ogu; Striving for  Super Eagles Regular Shirt

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John Ogu’s first stint with the Super Eagles was in a World Cup qualifier against Kenya in 2013. He was also part of Nigeria’s team to the Confederation Cup in Brazil same year, though he appeared not convincing. Another opportunity came his way in March, when he replaced injured Ogenyi Onazi in an international friendly against Senegal in London. Thereafter the German Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr decided to give the Israeli-based player another chance, inviting him ahead of thez̄ AFCON qualifier match against South Africa later this year.

Kunle Adewale writes on Ogu’s chances at grabbing a regular shirt in the team In John Ogu’s two notable games for the national team, he came in as substitute. In his first game against Kenya in 2013, he came in for injured Victor Moses, while in his last game – a friendly against Senegal in London – he replaced injured Ogenyi Onazi. He has however been handed another opportunity to make the Super Eagles team ahead of the African Cup of Nations qualifying match with South Africa. Ogu has been invited alongside 24 others for the training camp in Corsica and Paris under the watch of Gernot Rohr and has expressed his excitement. Recalling his last experience with the Super Eagles against Senegal in London after being ignored for long, Ogu said: “I had a great time in the Super Eagles camp in London to be honest, 10 days out with the coaching crew and staff was a great experience. I met all the players and I was super happy at the talents I was in camp with. We have the talents now; we have a president who has big plans for our football, we have the coaches who care about our local league as well.” Ogu’s first stint with the Super Eagles was in 2013 under Coach Stephen Keshi while he was still playing for Portuguese club-Academica FC. He had said then, “I feel great and I am happy for the invitation that was extended to me by Stephen Keshi, it’s a great privilege.

I expect to give my best to the nation; they should believe in me since I have been invited to camp and I promise to do my best. I was called upon because of my performance and hard work and I’m excited about it.” His excitement quickly faded as his best was not good enough for the team to the Confederation Cup in Brazil, and had been ignored since then until the arrival of the new Eagles German tactician. He, however, attributed his absence from the national team to the decision he took while in Portugal. “It started with a friendly in South Africa when the coach asked me to feign injury but I refused. We were African champions and I wanted to be part of the squad, playing for my country is too important for me,” Ogu told Supersport. “When I returned to Portugal everything changed and he stopped playing me. I didn’t get much attention. I continued working on my game but he never played me. It was only after the team list came out for the World Cup that he (the coach tried to be nice to me) but it was too late. “Now, I am in Israel and playing regularly, enjoying my football, winning league titles and back in the national team.

I am very happy,” he said. On what it is like playing in that league, he said, “football is not so much about the league you play. It is a team sport. It is a function of the quality of the players available to any team. The difference between this and the other top five leagues I can say is about the experience of the players in those top leagues. “Another factor affecting top players coming to Israel is fear of safety. Many players are worried about the situation in the country. The league is probably on the same level financially as Turkey but a lot of players probably feel safer going to Turkey.” On how he feels that at Hapoel he is one of the first names on the team sheet but for the Super Eagles, despite his experience, he is not a guaranteed starter, he explained, “I am one of those who will always respect the decisions of the coach. It is a dream to be called up to represent Nigeria and so it is an honour to be in the squad. So when I come to the Super Eagles camp I do not feel I am coming to replace anyone. I just feel I am coming to help my country win matches and qualify for tournaments.” Ogu’s main target is to see Nigeria book a place to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. “My main target now though is that Nigeria qualifies for the World Cup. Cameroon will have received a big boost with their AFCON win but we have to be determined and keep our heads and we will make it and make Nigerians happy,” he said.

Speaking with THISDAY, former Nigerian international, Tajudeen Disu, said the list was fair in every ramification and thinks the coaching crew had done a good job of it especially on the invitation of some home-based players and some upcoming players like John Ogu. “I think Rohr is starting to trust Ogu after his performance against Senegal in London. Though, it was far away from a vintage performance but the coach saw in him a bright future and a room for improvement. It is now left for the player to grab the opportunity at his disposal. “If he does well against South Africa he can eventually commandeer the Eagles midfield shirt. He has the potentials no doubt, but he needs to compose himself more and prove to the coach that he’s the best option for that position. “Without trying to undermine his Israeli club-Hapoel Be’er Sheva, a regular shirt for the national team could also earn him bigger clubs in Europe and of cause, better pay. Those are some of the advantages that come along with enjoying regular shirt for the national team,” Disu stated. It therefore remains to be seen how Ogu would grab the opportunity thrown at him now.