MFM FC forward Sikiru Olatunbosun won the Goal of the Season award at the NFF Awards in January. He talks about the goal, his exclusion from the 2018 CHAN and more in this interview with IDRIS ADESINA
Your goal against Enugu Rangers last season was voted Goal of the Season at the first Nigeria Football Federation awards. How did you feel about it?
I was very excited when I heard my name announced as the winner that night. The surprise started from the nominations. I saw the other two goals – Shedrack Asiegbu (Abia Warriors vs Plateau United) and Oche Salifu (Remo Stars vs El-Kanemi) – and I knew they were also fantastic; so, I was expecting anything. When I was announced, I was happy that my goal got the recognition once again.
The goal was also nominated for the 2017 FIFA Puskas Award but didn’t win it. Were you disappointed?
No, I was not. What was on my mind during that match was not about scoring a fantastic goal, it was getting the needed points against a tough Rangers side but the goal came along. That goal was worked by three of us – Chukwuka Onuwa, Stephen Odey and me. After the game, I saw it online and I appreciated its beauty. It was all over the Internet for a while and it really made me popular. So, when it didn’t make the final of the FIFA award, I wasn’t sad at all. The goals that made it to the final were also good goals. That goal has shown me that I still have a lot in me to deliver.
Your knack for goals scoring has made fans to liken you to former Super Eagles striker, Rashidi Yekini. Do you think you are the new Yekini?
I have never drawn a comparison between me and the late Yekini, who is a football legend in Nigeria. I believe that fans and those who watch the way a player plays are the ones who can liken you to a senior footballer in terms of style of play. I know I am a power-playing forward because I like to take on defenders and play a lot of shots, but I don’t think I am close to what I know of the late Yekini. I can say I am not the new Yekini because I still have a long way to go and I also have a lot to learn to reach that level. I will say I play like myself and not like anyone else.
What influenced your style of play?
I will say the need to score goals made me become a power player. In every match I play, I want to score goals that will help my team to win. I believe I have some skills to take on defenders and go past them but when that is not working, I resort to playing shots from outside the area whenever I can set my sight on goal. I believe this has often worked as most of my goals have come from shots rather than simple tap-ins.
This season, you have not been scoring as frequently as you used to. What happened?
Nothing has changed. It is just that I have not been in the form I was last season and I am working hard on getting back to that form. It is 12 match days into the season and I believe I will return to that form that produced the goal everyone was talking about last season. It is just a matter of time; I just need to be patient.
MFM have played three matches in the CAF Champions League and you haven’t featured in any of them. Why were you left out of the team?
I won’t like to talk about that for now but I believe that if the club make it to the group stages, the fans will get to see me in action.
What are your targets?
I have a lot of targets. I want to play in Europe – where I can earn some money better than what we currently have in Nigeria. I also want to play for Nigeria at the World Cup, which is the pinnacle of every player’s career. I also want to make money enough to take care of my family and help other people in need.
You were left out of the Super Eagles team that finished second at the African Nations Championship in Morocco in February. How did you feel about that?
It was not a thing to be happy about but I was also not sad that I was left out of the team because the coach knew what he wanted. I heard that it was because I was injured in the Super 6 that I was left out, but I wasn’t injured at that competition. I have been called to the Eagles and the experience was wonderful. I still look forward to making the team again in the nearest future. What I am concerned about now is how to improve my game and get better than I am currently.
Last season, the attacking trio of Chukwuka Onuwa, you and Stephen Odey produced lots of goals for the club. But since Odey left for Austria, the goals have reduced. Would you say Odey’s departure has affected MFM’s scoring chances?
If I say I didn’t miss Odey, I would be lying. Our partnership was wonderful. But I wouldn’t say it has affected the club’s goals scoring because we have other players scoring the goals. Forming a partnership with a player takes time and when it clicks, the product will be seen in the goals being scored. No player will stay at a club forever. Odey has left but I and Onuwa are still there and we are working more on getting the goals.
When you leave Nigeria, which European league is most likely to be your destination?
It depends on the offers available. After last season, some offers came in but none of them materialised. I want to play in a league where the money is good as well as help develop my game. Some leagues in Africa are paying better than some of the leagues in Europe. For instance, Junior Ajayi is doing very well in Egypt and he is paid better than some other guys in some European countries. But I will like to play in England or Spain. Those leagues are where I think my style of football will easily be appreciated.
Who is the toughest defender you have played against in the domestic league?
It’s the late Chinedu Udoji; he is the only one that has given me a tough time in the league. He is very versatile and tackles very hard.
What’s your most memorable match yet?
The match against Enugu Rangers at the Agege Stadium where I scored the goal that made me popular.
How did you become a footballer?
I became a footballer by accident. I started sports in my secondary school – St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Lagos. I started as a baseball player. As a student playing baseball, I travelled across Nigeria and to a few African countries where we went for inter-school competitions. But apart from baseball, I used to play football on the streets in Akoka. It was one of the grass-roots coaches in Akoka – I can’t remember his name now – that told me to quit baseball and focus on football.
How did you join MFM?
I joined MFM through coach Fidelis Ilechukwu about 10 years ago. My grass-roots team, Talented FC, played against his team in the Lagos FA grass-roots league and I scored against them. He contacted me and convinced me to join his team and since then, I have been with MFM.
How supportive were your parents when you started?
Initially, my mum did not support me but my dad always supported me. She would beat me when I returned from training back then. She wanted me to focus on my education; she didn’t want me to do sports full-time. But now that the game is bringing in some money, she keeps praying for me to grow bigger.
What are the challenges facing players in the local league?
There are lots of challenges facing players in Nigeria but I think that the biggest has to do with financial challenges. Many clubs in the country owe players and do not pay on time. Some players also suffer from poor contractual agreements with their clubs – with the clubs and agents cheating them from the little they earn. But I believe that it can get better if players seek advice and also get educated along with their football career.
If you were not a footballer, what would you have been?
I probably would still be playing baseball. Some of my friends in secondary school are still in the sport – while some of them have travelled out of the country, others are still playing professionally in Nigeria. I may also have dropped it and faced my education.
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