Super Eagles midfielder, Ogenyi Onazi, lifts the lid on his spell on the sidelines for eight months and how he pushed his team, Trabzonspor, to sign his idol John Mikel Obi… in this interview with JOHNNY EDWARD
How well are you recuperating from the injury that kept you out of action for about eight months?
I’m making good progress and I am coping very well mentally from the setback. As you know, injuries are part of football and sometimes it’s inevitable. It is sad that it ruled me out of action this long but then, it is getting okay as I’m recovering very fast. I believe by the end of August, I should resume training with the rest of the squad. In fact, I should have resumed earlier with the squad but I had infection on my tendon which delayed my comeback a bit. It was strange again wearing shoes because that part of the leg became very sensitive due to the injury. These past eight months have been the hardest part of my football career so far.
Mikel Obi finally teamed up with Trabzonspor on Thursday after his signing was announced on July 1. How do you feel about re-uniting with him at club level?
I’m very excited of course. The club had several options and he was just one among them. So, the club president asked about him (Mikel) from me and I told them all they needed to know and how good he can be for the team. I pushed it to them to get him at any cost because I know what he can bring to the team. I have played with him and so I should be in the best position to know. Just like I did when Anthony Nwakaeme was on the club’s radar last season, I had to also convince Mikel to choose Trabzonspor well ahead of other Turkish teams who were on his trail. Now, I can’t wait to continue that wonderful partnership we had playing for the Super Eagles at Trabzonspor. I played some of my best games with Eagles alongside him. We won the AFCON together when I was relatively young. He’s one calm guy you need around you always. His experience will come very handy for us as a team and the fact that Trabzonspor will be in four competitions this season also means he will be of help immensely. I’m so excited that he’s here with us and I cannot wait to join the main squad in training. He has been my football idol since I started playing football and the fact that we hail from the same place (Jos) makes it more good.
What was the feeling like watching your teammates on TV during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt?
It was so painful missing out on the AFCON duty because if I wasn’t injured, I would have made the squad. We lost in the semi-finals to Algeria and that was a game I felt we could have won but that’s football. I believe we had a team that could have won the tournament but unfortunately we did not. Nonetheless, we finished with a bronze. So congratulations to the boys for their effort. We will be better in the next edition.
Who impressed you most in the Eagles at the AFCON?
They all did, from the goalkeeper, to the defence line, in midfield- where Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo were Trojans. For Odion Ighalo, I wasn’t surprised by his scoring prowess in Egypt. He has always been that striker you can rely on. It’s so sad that he’s retired now.
Mikel also called it quits from the national team. What do you make of that decision from him?
Yes, we will miss his leadership qualities, but I’m happy he’s going to be playing for Trabzonspor and I can continue to learn from him probably till he hangs his boot finally. I believe the Super Eagles have some leaders in the making and they will eventually cope as well.
What kind of support did you get from the Nigeria Football Federation since you copped this injury?
It’s not a very good time for me to talk about it but I got some support from them anyway.
What did you miss most while you are on the sidelines not playing football?
I missed everything, from the tackles, the pressure to win games and the fans who add another spice to the game. They (fans) put you on your toes to give your best always. Also I missed playing for Nigeria. But missing out on the AFCON was a hardest pill to swallow.
How has marriage shaped you as a husband, father and player?
Of course, you know when you are single, there are lots of things you do without even thinking. You don’t ask for the consent of anybody and stuffs like that. But at this point when you’re married, you have a wife, a companion and somebody you have to share things with and who can advice you. Getting married in a way means you can’t just act anyhow, anymore. For me, this is another important part of my life which has really given me a kind of calmness to plan my life- making me understand what I need to do and what I don’t need to do.
At this point in your career, what does the future holds for you and what are your ambitions ahead of the new season?
My main target now is to first get back on my feet, start kicking the ball and make sure I’m okay. Second, is to get back to full fitness. The third is to help my team to win the league title and fourth is to make sure that I’m fit enough to play for my country again. After achieving all these, then I can start thinking about the future. I want to say I am still very ambitious. I am eager to regain my old form for my club and play regularly this season and also to help Trabzonspor win titles this season.