2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner Chigozie Agbim has told www.aclsports.com that Nigeria’s Super Eagles must not give up at any point in their pursuit of success at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations which starts in Egypt exactly five weeks from Friday.
Agbim who was Nigeria’s third choice goalkeeper at the tournament in South Africa says being a part of the title winning squad was the greatest honour in his career and gladly handed out a module for a successful tournament for the current set of Eagles.
Agbim, 34, who now plays for Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side Delta Force says it’s an honour, winning the title under the late Stephen Keshi.
“The Nations Cup is one of the greatest honour a footballer can get and an achievement one can achieve while playing for his fatherland,” began Agbim to www.aclsports.com
“It’s a privilege for me to be among the team that won the tournament and it’s a great honour for me. I still have it in my memory every day remembering how I was among the team that won the Nations Cup in 2013. It’s a great honour for me,” he added.
Agbim was one of the most criticised members of the team under Keshi’s reign but the head coach, fondly called “Big Boss” stood by him, even making him first choice at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) a year later.
“In that team, we had a great coach (Stephen Keshi). Somebody that believed in all the players he had and he kept telling the players not to give up that we have every chance to make our top prize,” explained the much vilified goalkeeper.
“He never criticised any player in the team and kept encouraging the players and I think that was what motivated the players more in that tournament.
“Everybody was just trying to give 120% of his talents and that was what pushed us to victory in that tournament. He told us that nobody believes in you but you can make people believe in you by giving us all that you have. That encouragement made us to go far, even winning the tournament.”
Nigeria won the tournament without losing any of their six games but their run to the title was not as plain sailing as the record looks. The Super Eagles stared group stage elimination in its face after drawing their first two games but Victor Moses’ penalty brace against Ethiopia ensured passage into the quarter final.
In the quarters, they face favourites Coted’voire and that game provided Agbim with his most memorable experience in the competition.
“It was the Coted’voire game (that I can never forget) because that was the game that when you lose, you’re out of the tournament,” the former Rangers goalkeeper recollected.
“Nobody believed that we could beat Coted’voire with the calibre of players they have that period. They had one of the best teams in Africa and it was after the game that we knew everything is possible, by winning the tournament.”
Aside the 2013 triumph, Nigeria have also won the tournament twice in the past (1980 and 1994) and Agbim believes the current set of Super Eagles have what it takes to win the trophy. From his experience, especially against Coted’voire in 2013, his message to Gernot Rohr’s men is simple:
“In life, you don’t give up,” says the Seychelles 2001 Under-17 Championship goalkeeper.
“You just have to keep pushing. We have greatly talented players in the country at the moment and I think if you don’t give up and keep pushing, with the talents we have, we can surprise everybody in the tournament.”
Nigeria will face Burundi in their opening group B game in Alexandra on June 22.