Nigeria International, Sam Sodje, says the Super Eagles should be very serious in every game they play at the 2013 Africa Nations Cup in South Africa, saying no team is easy anymore. In this interview with IZUCHUKWU OKOSI, he expresses his readiness to play for the Super Eagles again.
Many Nigerians have not heard much about you. What is happening to your career?
I'm having an operation this week. At the moment, I do not have a club because I'm a free agent after my contract with Notts County ended in May. So I can sign for any team, but my fitness is uppermost in my mind while my agent will take care of that.
Okay, let’s talk about the Super Eagles. You have not played for the Nigerian national team for a while now, but have you been following events back home?
Of course, I've been impressed with the Super Eagles performance since Stephen Keshi took over the national team. There is a new dawn in the Eagles while there are still rooms for improvement in the team so that they can get stronger. You can see that the team is taking shape now.
Many have criticized Coach Stephen Keshi for his concentration on home based players, do you believe in the idea of building the team from the local league?
I know why Nigerians are complaining. People feel that the home-based Eagles are not as good as their foreign-based teammates. But I know where Keshi is coming from; I mean most of the foreign-based players started out in the local league, so he has to look inwards to see how he can discover talented players from the league. Personally, it is not a bad idea at all because soon, we shall start seeing the result.
Neither you nor any of your brothers have played for the Eagles for a long time. Do you guys feel bad about that?
We are not bitter about it. The thing is that we have always given our best whenever the national team coaches inviteed us. Personally, I believe I have a future in the Eagles and would love to be invited by Keshi very soon.
The Super Eagles have been grouped alongside Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia in Group C of the 2013 Africa Nations Cup in South Africa. Do you think the Eagles will have an easy ride in the group?
There will be no easy group in the 2013 Africa Nations Cup and we should not delude ourselves that there are countries
that will be beaten easily next year. The Zambians will not want to lose against Nigeria for the third time in recent memory. Burkina Faso are West African opposition and would be tough because we're from the same part of the continent, while Ethiopia who held the Eagles to a draw during the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers would want to prove that their effort was not a fluke. It will not be an easy Nations Cup for some so-called big teams. Nigeria must beware of the so-called ‘small nations’ as well.
So, you don't think that the ‘giant killers’ will be overawed during the Nations Cup?
There will be one or two upsets in South Africa. It may not be the likes of Cape Verde but some nations that were originally not tipped for the title could be spoilers. The game has improved a lot in Africa and the players have been playing
in Europe and all these have helped to improve the quality of our players on the continent.
Now, if you think the foreign based players are better, are you saying that Stephen Keshi will do better in South Africa with only the foreign-based players?
I've not said that the home-based players are not good enough for the national team. There are home-based players who are even better than the guys in Europe.
Sam do you think the Eagles can win the Nations Cup?
I think so. Good preparation will do it for us, and I don't think there is any reason to be afraid if we prepare well. Nigeria is a country other African teams want to beat anyway.
Let's talk about the fight against racism in football. What is your opinion about the punishment being meted out to offending teams?
The teams whose fans and players indulge in such acts should be banned. It’s not enough to fine such teams, how much do UEFA and FIFA fine the teams anyway? What happened in Serbia recently was a shame.
The Kick- It-Out-Campaign got into gear in the wake of the racial slurs suffered by Danny Rose and other English U-21 stars but we heard that Rio Ferdinand wants to establish a breakaway Players Union for black players.
What is your reaction to that?
I think we should have a common front and not have divided bodies. My brothers and I supported the Kick It Out campaign and my brother wore the t-shirt, but I still prefer a one-body union but you can't blame Rio or anybody for that matter.