In spite of having been shut out of the Nigerian national team for more than three years now, Ambrose Efe still believes that his Super Eagles career is not over. The 2013 AFCON gold medalist gave Kunle Adewale, an insight into the Eagles’ campaign in Egypt, his time with Derby County and Frank Lampard and many more
After a scintillating Round of 16 encounter between Nigeria and Cameroon, which the Super Eagles won 3-2, Nigerian soccer fans are beginning to be optimistic that the team might go on to win the trophy, a sentiment which is also shared by Efe Ambrose.
“I always believe the Super Eagles will shine in the on-going Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, and in every tournament the first math is key, a test which the team passed and with luck on their side they have the potential to go all the way.
“Some of the players like Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi and Odion Ighalo are well experienced to know what it takes to represent ones country.”
Asked to rate the better team between the 2013 AFCON winning team to the present one, Ambrose is of the opinion that there is no basis for comparism .
“Nobody gave us a chance to win the tournament that year and the willingness to prove doubters wrong was what kept us going and we had the belief that we can win and we played as a unit. And I can also see that unity and love in this present squad and when a team is together it’s always very difficult to beat.”
Since the expiration of his short contract with Derby County, Ambrose is in search of another club and he’s optimistic that he will hear good news from his agent soon.
On why he did not feature much in Derby County’s failed attempt to gaining promotion to the Premier League, Ambrose said Frank Lampard is in a better position to answer the question, saying however that he felt honoured to play for Derby and under the present Chelsea manager.
“Efe hasn’t played a competitive match since the end of December. It was good for us to have a look at him in this way. Efe is here outside of the window and if he can come in then great,” Lampard had said of Efe then.
“I have found him very nice, very good, very friendly, so as a character I think he would be great for us anyway,” Lampard had said.
He went on to outline some of the defender’s strengths with a move seemingly moving closer.
“I watched a lot of him, I know his strengths. He is a tall defender, very committed, wants to play on the ball, and quick. It is just about making sure about his level of fitness and that both sides are happy it is going to work.”
“I had other offers from abroad so when my agent called me and said Derby were interested and they had put an offer to us, with Lampard, I said there is no second choice. That should be the first choice because for me, I’ve known Lampard since he was at Chelsea as a player, and he has been my hero and someone I’ve always enjoyed watching play football. He is a legend so when he told me about Derby and Lampard, I’ve always watched the Championship and known about the passion,” Ambrose said.
“Sometimes you never know where football will take you but for me, it’s a dream to play down in England so getting the opportunity to play here is amazing,” Ambrose said.
“It was an honour that Derby and indeed Lampard saw me as such an important player to be signed on and I really enjoyed my time there. Lampard is a wonderful manager and am optimistic that in the next three or four years he will be rated as one of the best coaches in the world like Pep Guardiola,” he opined.
In spite of Gernot Rohr not looking at his direction for a place in the Super Eagles, Ambrose is optimistic he still has something to offer the German-born tactician.
“For me, I have not yet retired from international football and I’ll still continue to work hard for a place in the Super Eagles team. Age does not matter in football, it is form that matters, which means I can still very much play myself into the heart of the national team managers.”
Ambrose is perhaps best known for his five-year stint at Celtic, where he replaced the former Owls captain Glenn Loovens and was a teammate of Gary Hooper, but the Nigerian spent the best part of two years at Hibernian before engineering his own release.
After a good performance at the junior ranks, former national team coach, Stephen Keshi invited Ambrose Efe to the Super Eagles ahead of 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and the defender did repose the trust ‘Big Boss’ had on him as he stood like a Rock in the defence en route Nigeria’s third AFCON success. Dip in form; not having enough playing time however robbed Efe of his ambition of having a part at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
After failing to pin down a regular playing time under Coach Bredan Rogers at Celtic and as a way of playing himself back to reckoning into the national team after been ignored in two successive 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Zambia and Algeria respectively, Ambrose sought a loan deal to English second-tier side, Blackburn Rovers, but the non-issuance of work permit made him return to Celtic.
The 30-year-old had stated that he is ready to continue “working hard and training hard. It’s difficult as a player you want to play, but as you know football has its ups and downs you have good days and bad days. For me I keep working hard and training hard, I enjoy every moment I spend on the training field.
“The manager has told me, he has seen me he knows my quality and the kind of player I am, but the most important thing for me is to start playing so when I start playing he can see me in a different way,” Ambrose was quoted as saying by The Scotting Sun.
Ambrose started his professional career at Kaduna United in 2006 and two years later, he was loaned to Bayelsa United for the 2008–09 season but remained with Kaduna United after helping them win promotion.
He joined Israeli Premier League club FC Ashdod in June 2010 and left in 2012 to join Scottish Premier League club Celtic on a three-year contract.
Ambrose was a member of the Nigerian national under-20 football team at 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada. He later represented Nigeria U-23 and played two games at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
He was called up to Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations playing five out of six games was named in the 2013 African Cup of Nations team of the tournament. He says winning the AFCON was his biggest achievement and one of the greatest moments of his life.
He was selected for Nigeria’s squad at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.