He missed out narrowly from the Super Eagles 2018 World Cup team after failing to make the last 23-team list. With a number of match-winning goals for Shakhtar Donetsk, and after a loan to Turkey, scoring four goals in five matches in the Europa League for Turkish side, Slvasspor, Olarenwaju Kayode is dreaming of a return to Nigeria’s senior national team. Kunle Adewale reports
Olanrewaju Kayode is one of the few Nigerian players that played in all the age-grade competitions for the country before graduating to the senior national team.
After playing at the FIFA U-17 and U-20 competitions and also at the Olympics for Nigeria, his target was to play at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. His dream was however cut short when he was surprisingly not listed in the final 23.
“It is the dream of any player that is worth his salt to star for his country at the World Cup and that has always been my ultimate aim and I work very hard to ensure I achieve that aim. Unfortunately, I was not listed in the final list to the Mundial in Russia,” the former Asec Mimosa player told THISDAY.
Asked how he felt when he failed to make the final cut to the Russia party, he said: “Naturally, I felt disappointed considering the hard work I put into the Super Eagles in the four matches I played for the team. I felt I deserved a place in the team but the coach knows best and I hold no grudge against anybody and I believe my time will come soon.”
On how he hopes to walk his way back into the team, the former Heartland of Owerri player said he would continue to work very hard to make his return to the senior national team.
“I know it would never be a walk in the pack considering the present crop of players the country boast of around the globe, but with hard work and doing very well for club, I will continue to attract the attention of the Super Eagles coaches,” he noted.
Kayode was on target four times in five matches in the group stages of Europa League for his Turkish club- Slvasspor and said those were the kinds of performances coaches don’t easily ignore.
“When you continue to put up your grade A game on a weekly basis, you will definitely draw the attention of the national team coaches and that is something I’m working hard to achieve,” he said.
He indeed hailed the Super Eagles on their performance during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier matches especially in their last two matches and believes he still has a place in the AFCON slated for Cameroon in spite of not playing in any of the group games.
“The competition is still open to any good player. If I work hard enough for my club I could still get a call-up and all I needed do then was to endear myself to the coaches by proving my worth. The 2022 World Cup qualifiers is also around the corner, so the Super Eagles still have many more matches to play and it’s also an avenue I could explore.
“I’m trying to keep myself fit and continue doing well for myself and for the team, I know when the time is right, they will call me. I deserve a place in the Super Eagles,” he said.
Kayode rates the Amaju Pinnick-led Nigeria Football Federation high, saying the former Delta football boss has taken Nigeria football to a new height.
“The present football administration is one of the best in Africa. Under Pinnick’s-led NFF, the Super Eagles no longer struggle to qualify for major competitions again, most of the times we now qualify for competitions with a game to spare which is a great plus to his administration,” he stated.
Though he had a few number of caps for the Super Eagles under Manager Gernot Rohr, he admitted he still did not know the Franco-German very well.
It’s been long I spoke to him, but I always wish him and the Super Eagles good luck whenever they are playing games,” he said.
Every player has somebody he looks up to and Kayode’s no exception. For him, former Nigerian international striker Obefemi Martins will always have a special place in his heart, while he also has great admiration for Portuguese super star Cristiano Ronaldo.
On why he was loaned to Slvasspor in spite of his impressive performance with Shakhtar Donetsk, Kayode said he was the one that requested for the loan deal.
“I had a very good relationship with the coach but because of my huge transfer from Manchester City, the management of Shakhtar Donetsk felt they could cash-in on my price tag by selling me to China and I refused so I started having issues with the eggheads of the club, it was then I requested to be loaned to my present club,” he said.
He however hopes to one day return to the Premier League side.
“I always dream to the day I will return to Manchester City. I left the team because I needed to play regularly which was not forth coming at the Etihad Stadium because of the presence of great stars like Kun Aguero and Pep Guardiola loaned me out to gain more experience.”
Kayode started his football career in the ancient city of Ibadan. At the age of seven he had already realised that it’s football or nothing and he received all the support from his father.
Painfully for Kayode, the whereabouts of the man who guided him through his football career while growing up is still unknown to him.
“It was one local coach we simply called ‘Alfa’ that shaped my football career and he will remain my mentor. But unfortunately, I don’t know his whereabouts.
I have asked several of my friends we played football together in Ibadan to help look for him so that I could appreciate him but to no avail.
“Whatever I achieve in my football career today still boils down to him and would forever appreciate and adore him,” Kayode said.