In May 2014, Ramon Azeez then of La Liga side Almeria was part of the initial 30 man World Cup squad of Nigeria put together by the coach, Stephen Keshi.
Azeez name was one of the major surprises in that list but it was not to the former Nigeria U20 skipper “It might have been a surprise to many people but it was not to me”. Azeez spoke exclusively to www.aclsports.com from his base in Spain where he plays with La Liga 2 side Lugo CD. “I never doubt myself when I enter a football pitch and so when I was invited to that training camp I was determined to show what I can do”.
He clearly was not intimidated by the players in camp as this writer remarked then here. “It was a wonderful to see my more experienced players like (Joseph) Yobo, (Vincent) Enyeama, Mikel and co”.
Not content with just being in the 30 man team, Azeez made the cut for Brazil. In Brazil he made the starting line-up as the African Champions faced Iran in the incredible heat of Curitiba. When did you know you were starting? “The day of the match during our pre match talk”. Really? “Yes. I guess the coach did not want to give me too much time to think before the match”. How did you feel? “I was very happy because this is the dream of every footballer to play in the world cup an here I was going to do it”.
Ramon Azeez was just 20 as the players walked out of the tunnel into the stadium so one can forgive him bouts of nerves. “Nervous? Never. I am never nervous before a game in that sense. I just wanted the match to start so I can get the ball rolling”.
It proved to be the only match he played in the tournament. “I pulled a muscle during training the next day and I never quite recovered fully. By the time I was fit the manager had other plans as can happen”. It is still one of the big mysteries with both Michael Babatunde and Ogenyi Onazi injured, Azeez was not introduced during the match Vs France.
After the World Cup, Azeez went back to Spain only to have contractual issues with Almeria “I joined the club as a youth team/reserve team player and my contract was such. After the World Cup I expected them to improve my contract but they refused and even sent me back to those sides instead of keeping me in the first team”
It is clearly an experience he is not very happy with nor talk about. “Now I am back on the right track with Lugo and enjoying my football. I am working hard every day and will always give my best to my team as we fight for promotion”.
Small but very technical footballer, it seems that the style and speed of football in Spain suits him down to a T. “Everyone knows that the Spanish League is one of the best in the world but that does not mean I am not open to playing elsewhere if the opportunity presents”.
Ramon Azeez has not been called up since Brazil does he still have desires to play for Nigeria? “Of course” He answers emphatically. “I am still very young and I am always ready to represent Nigeria”.
On the players who are likely to go to Russia next year. “The world cup is a very big stage” he starts with seriousness. “This is what every player dreams of so they must be ready to grab the chance and participate fully”.
His final words were for the man who gave him his senior caps and took him to the World Cup, Stephen Keshi “Legend, great coach, great human being on and off the field. A man who always wanted the best for all his players. May his soul rest in peace”.
Images: La Liga Nigeria/Ramon Azeez