Deep into the second half of the match with Barcelona, Las Palmas Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo went down with what looked like cramp. After a little treatment he was up, off and running again.
Etebo along with his team mates dug deep to earn a creditable draw against the run away LaLiga leaders from Catalonia. It was a match that was live on TV and millions of Nigerians who watched were typically effusive on the performance of the home no 6. How about the man himself?
“I have played well in all the matches I have played since I arrived here” Etebo spoke to www.aclsports.com inside the Estadio Gran Canaria after the last training session before the visit of Villareal.
“Against Barcelona, it was a full team performance as we needed to get at least a point. I believe every match is important for us to stay in this first division; it was not a special match because it was Barcelona.”
Etebo is a very confident young man and believes in his ability as a footballer as is expected from a footballer who made his debut in the Nigerian league at just 17 for Warri Wolves. In that debut 2013 season he scored 17 league goals – a phenomenal number.
Etebo started to get prominence nationally after he scored 5 goals as Nigeria won the U23 AFCON in Senegal which were also the qualifiers for the football event of the Rio Olympics of 2016. In Brazil he was Nigeria’s top scorer again including 4 goals in the opening match Vs Japan. An injury denied Nigeria of his services vs Germany in the semi-final.
“I tried to get fit for that match but it just was not to be. I was very disappointed as I wanted to play in such a match to help my country and my team mates. It was not all bad as we still finished with a Bronze medal”.
After the Olympics, a move to Feirense in Portugal followed and now he is playing in LaLiga even though on loan “I could have gone elsewhere for more money but I chose to come here because it is one of the best leagues in the world with better teams and I am sure I will become a better player.”
At Las Palmas he starts off in a central midfield position and has played there a lot for the Super Eagles; for a player with his taste for goals, what is his favourite position on the pitch? “As second striker” he says with a wide smile and with no hesitation “I am comfortable playing in the centre of midfield or defensive midfield depending on how our shape is set out”.
Olympics done, Etebo has his sights set on the World Cup. He and his Super Eagles team mates will gather in Poland and England later this month for friendlies against Poland and Serbia. Looking forward to Russia? “Nigeria is going to do well at the world cup” Etebo says with stern look on his face. “People better believe it and watch out; it is not going to be easy but I am certain Nigeria will do well in Russia”
This confidence is “We have players playing well across their clubs in Europe and we have at least 3 players for every position so that no one seems too relaxed in their positions. We are all determined and we are like one family”.
Etebo went off at half time with what looked an injury during the 2 nil home defeat to Villareal, he and the Nigeria national team technical crew will be hoping it is not serious enough to make him miss the friendlies.
Immense gratitude to the LaLiga Nigeria team who set up the interview in Spain at Las Palmas. Also to Ms Anabel of the LaLiga club’s media department who ensured Etebo was available.