One of the players Nigeria will bank on for the Super Eagles to make an impact at the World Cup in Russia next month, Alex Iwobi, says he is not setting a target for himself. He’s content appearing at the Mundial for the first time. In a chat with Kunle Adewale, the Arsenal player’s decision to play for his country even when the opportunity to star for England beckoned and his time with Arsene Wenger
As the kick-off of the 2018 World Cup draws nearer, Arsenal and Super Eagles midfielder, Alex Iwobi, is hoping that Nigeria would make an appreciable performance just as he expressed delight to be play for the Super Eagles at the Mundial.
“We hope to do well at the World Cup, though I am not setting any personal target for myself but rather excited at playing in the Mundial for the first time,” Iwobi said.
His father, Chuba, corroborated his opinion, saying there was no set target for his son to meet: “I am not setting a target for him, but I am convinced he would go out there and do his best. He won’t come back from the World Cup with any regret or look back and say I could have done more. He is going to bring success to the team. I believe Nigeria has a good team and will do well.”
Iwobi indeed expressed his regret that the tenure of his mentor-Arsene Wenger at Arsenal had come to an end. He stated that he was emotional after his side defeated Huddersfield Town1-0 in their last Premier League fixture which was also Wenger’s final game in charge of the Gunners.
Iwobi who was named in the starting line up as in Wenger’s last game and was in action for 72 minutes before he was substituted said: “I feel depressed that Wenger was leaving the club after 22 years in charge. I had exciting moments with him but I am also looking forward to working hard with whoever is coming to take over from him.”
Iwobi was, however, not bothered by league finish as he took to his official Twitter account stating his disappointment at the departure of the manager who gave him an opportunity in the first team: “Good to end the season with a win! Emotional and knowing it’s the boss’s last match, was only right it was a win. Love to our fans for all your support this season.”
Expressing the same view, his father said: “Every good thing has an ending. Wenger had been there for 22 years, he is a remarkable manager. As a family, we are very grateful because he gave Alex his first opportunity at Arsenal. Going forward however, the reality is gone and what Alex is trying to do is work with the new manager. He’s gotten the natural talent and the ability to play the arsenal way. I’m very confident that he would still be relevant to the team.”
Chuba, however, regretted that his son and indeed Arsenal would not be playing in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
“I feel bad that my son would not be playing in the Champions League next season having failed to book a top-four place in the premier league but I believe strongly that the new season would be better for the Gunners,” Chuba said.
On when he really realised that his son could really make a career in football, Chuba said he started taking Alex to the field to train as early as when Iwobi was 18 months, adding that his son showed great promise of becoming a great footballer at a very early age.
“I grew up in a footballing environment. My dad, my uncle and my whole family love football. I played with a local team named Chuba Akpom; so I grew up with a footballing life,” Iwobi said.
Against the backdrop that Iwobi’s decision to play for the Super Eagles as against the Three Lions of England was influenced by his uncle and former national team captain, Austin Okocha, Chuba said Alex’s decision to star for Nigeria was strictly his.
He said Alex’s decision to dump England for Nigeria was strictly his own decision. “All I did was to support him, and I believe he took the right decision,” Chuba said.
Iwobi admitted that deciding to play for Nigeria and not England was not an easy one considering the fact that he had lived in England for almost all his years, but said it was strictly his own decision really without any external influence.
Iwobi, who was born in Nigeria, said: “Ordinarily I would have loved to play for England since I have played for all the under-aged teams up to the U-19. My dad also told me a lot of things about the honour and pride that goes with playing for Nigeria. So I thought a lot about this and decided to play for Nigeria,” he said.
Iwobi was last Saturday unveiled as the brand ambassador of LG electronics on a three year deal, at the company’s showroom in Lekki, Lagos.
“LG would not have beckoned Alex if they didn’t think he would add value and I’m assuring them that they’ve made the right decision. He has been given the platform to contribute his quota, which is sending message to the youths in the country and making them know that every dream is achievable,” Chuba said.
Iwobi was honoured at 2018 Best of Africa Awards held in London in April. BoA is an award to honour and celebrate the philanthropic endeavours and achievements of African-born football players.
When he moved from the Arsenal Academy to play among Emirates big boys, some felt he was just riding on the back of his uncle, Austin Okocha’s name and the legacy left behind at the club by former Super Eagles star, Nwankwo Kanu during his time at the north London club. However, Iwobi has proved doubters wrong as he did not only become one of the fans favourites at the Emirate Stadium, but was singled out for praise by Coach Arsene Wenger on several occasions.
Iwobi has been right in the mix for the Emirates Stadium side having made an impression in his breakthrough season.
“I saw in him quality of vision, quality of give and go, of movement. He can break the lines with a pass and individually as well, so there’s a lot in the locker. Overall, he’s only 22 years old so you could see that he has gained in confidence now. He can take people on much more and he has gained power as well. It’s interesting what he has done. Throughout every age group he’s played, he’s been far and away the best player and sees Arsenal as more or less a continuation of that. He feels very comfortable in his surroundings and seems to have an innate sense of how he can influence matches,” the French coach had told the club’s official website.
Continuing, Wenger said, “What I like is his love for the game, his passion for the game and his hard work. Those things together, in our world, are a big quality and so I think he has interesting ingredients.”
Iwobi made his official debut for Arsenal in their Capital One Cup fourth round tie against Sheffield at Hillsborough Stadium two years ago.
He had earlier had a taste of first-team football during the tour of Singapore and made the bench for the Capital Cup One clash with Tottenham Hotspur in the third round.
Omeruo Celebrates’Taste the Goal’ with Football Fans
The Sports Center of Yaba College of Technology in Lagos hugged the sporting limelight last Sunday and the feelings will linger in the minds of several football fans who had a rare opportunity to meet one-on-one with World Cup-bound Super Eagles’ strongman in the defence line, Kenneth Omeruo. In this report, Femi Solaja writes on the nostalgic feelings of most of the youths at the ‘Taste the Goal’ project. It was a unique privilege to play against the Chelsea Loanee!
Get Past Kenneth to Taste the Goal
With the World Cup fever already gripping the Nigerian populace, leading pizza brand, Domino’s Pizza had announced the launch of a consumer engagement campaign tagged ‘Taste the Goal’ to excite, inspire, and sensitise its teeming consumers and fans of the Nigerian national team towards the Mundial in Russia.
The weekend programme was planned to coincide with exactly one month to June 16th World Cup opening match between Nigeria and Croatia.
The event which had several youths in attendance was aimed at inspiring optimism among consumers and fans of the national team. But more importantly, put them in right frame of mind to support the team in the first three group stage matches and perhaps as the tournament progresses with Nigeria still in the race for the converted trophy.
Several young ambitious youths were delights to watch as they engaged the defender who is, aiming for his second World Cup appearance after the Brazil 2014 debut.
The Kasimpasa Football Club defender, engaged consumers in a series of experiential and activation games to inspire consumers and fans to anticipate a successful outing of the national team at the world cup.
Top of the games is the pitch-planned ‘Get Past Kenneth to Taste the Goal’ game in which consumers are given the opportunity to dribble Kenneth Omeruo to score a goal and get rewarded by Domino’s Pizza! It was a tall order as many failed but few made it.
All the participants and spectators had a wonderful evening but the organisers assured consumers that ‘The Taste the Goal’ campaign would run from now till after tzhe World Cup. “I am delighted to be associated with this campaign which is aimed at sharing the excitement of football with family and friends with a fresh Domino pizza,” he remarked.
Kenneth Omeruo would be championing the campaign with several activities such as Meet & Greet at some viewing centres, mystery delivery of pizza to fans, day out with two fans, and special appearances on radio programmes.
World Cup Goal
As Omeruo looks set for second appearance at the World Cup finals with Russia 2018, he assured Nigerian football fans that the priceless World Cup trophy was within the reach of the team should Nigeria start the campaign against Croatia on a positive note.
According to him, ” everywhere you go, people talk about Messi, Modric, Aguero and Rakitic but nobody is talking of the components that made the present crop of Super Eagles players. I think it’s a huge advantage for us as a determined side and to the best of my knowledge, Nigeria will be the talking point after the group stage matches all through to the last phase of the tournament,” Omeruo assured.
In his pre-tournament assessment, the FC Chelsea Loanee analysed that ” the most important match of Super Eagles is the opening tie against Croatia and not the last match with Argentina.
“The moment we get the results in our first two matches with Croatia and Iceland, we will be going into the final group match against Argentina with lots of confidence and perhaps repeat the last result we secured against them in the friendly match late last year.
“You will recall that we had already qualified for the World Cup as at the time we faced them in the last friendly match and we all know the outcome of the tie right there in Russia late last year. The logic is that the moment we pick maximum points in the opening games, it will spur the team to greater height.
“Since Super Eagles debuted in 1994, I want to say the other generations of the team had laid a solid foundation and have taken us away from being mere participant or second round qualification bar, but real contender for the trophy,” he assured.
The defender, who hopes to return to England next season form Turkey commended the technical crew for the harmony that had existed within the team in the last few years.