Nigerian midfielder Okechukwu Azubuike is buzzing ahead of his side’s Turkish Super Lig opener on Sunday.
Azubuike is starting his third season at modest side Turkish side Yeni Malatyaspor this summer and the former Under -23 national team captain spoke of his desire for a good start on his Super Lig debut.
“I’m so excited for my Super Lig debut come Sunday against Osmanlispor, and I hope to start very strong and also help my team get a win by God’s grace,” Azubuike told ACLSports from his Turkey base.
There has been an influx of Nigerian players to Turkey in recent years and a few of Azubuike’s teammates at last summer’s Rio Olympics are now with him in Turkey including Nigeria’s defensive pair in Brazil, William Troost-Ekong and Sincere Seth.
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The latter has joined up with Azubuike at Malatyaspor and the former Bayelsa United midfielder spoke more about the relationship between him and Nigerian players at his club and in Turkey.
“There are lots of Nigerian players now in Turkey and I know almost all the players. In my team, Sunday Mba (2013 AFCON hero) and Seth Sincere are the other Nigerians with me and we’re like family, same with the others playing in other teams. We meet up most times before games and after to talk about the old memories,” he said.
Yeni Malatyaspor gained promotion to the elite division at the end of last season with Azubuike playing a prominent role in the team’s success. Sunday’s opener against Osmanlispor pits Azubuike against his Olympics teammates Aminu Umar and Raheem Lawal.
The excitement of competing with the big boys is already visible in the streets of Malatya and the club has already signed some big names including former FC Porto and Aston Villa defender Aly Cissokho and Arsenal product, Nacer Barazite.
“Yeni Malatyaspor is new in the Super Lig. I can tell you the city is super excited, we can see that in the streets where people use the club’s flag in writing “Welcome Super Lig”. And our aim is to remain in the league and hopefully do the extra ordinary,” an upbeat Azubuike said.
After drifting in and out of the team in his first season in Turkey, Azubuike’s participation at the Olympics for Nigeria where he missed just one of Nigeria’s six games preceded a big season for his club.
“I can say the Olympics helped my confidence level. Having played at that stage, the league was easier and thanks to God who helped in every game I played,” said the 20-year old who played 29 times in the Lig 1 last season.
Azubuike has just one senior cap to his name and several of his Olympics teammates have gone on to play key roles for the Nigerian national team within the past twelve months.
Azubuike is happy for his mates but happier to wait for his chance with the senior team.
“Personally, I’m happy for the few Olympics mates playing for the Eagles. I’m not worried not being called up as I know my time will come by God’s grace and I will seize the opportunity.”