Zambia: Osimhen – Qualification to Zambia Is Our Focus

Striker Victor Osimhen etched his name into football folklore at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in 2015 when he broke the long-standing nine-goal scoring record and set a new 11-goal mark as Nigeria cruised to a record fifth title.

Together with the core members of the all-conquering squad in Chile, they have progressed to the Flying Eagles, and have so far churned out some impressive results much to the delight of their fans.

Named CAF Youth Player of the Year in 2015, Osimhen and his colleagues are on the verge of picking a ticket to next year’s U-20 AFCON to be hosted in Zambia. A fortnight ago, Osimhen scored the winning goal as the Flying Eagles came from behind to beat their Sudanese counterparts 2-1 in Omdurman. The second leg takes place on Saturday, 23 July 2016 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

The 17 year-old who has penned a pre-contract with German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, is banking on the passionate Lagos fans to cheer them to a double over Sudan and seal their place at next year’s U-20 AFCON in Zambia. Below are excerpts of his interview; How has the transition been from the Golden Eaglets that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile to the Flying Eagles?

Victor Osimhen: It has been great and personally, I’m still on cloud nine because I also had the opportunity of playing with the national U-23 team that won the AFCON in Senegal. I want to use this opportunity to thank the officials for giving me the opportunity of playing in that wonderful team. Our focus now is to secure qualification for the U-20 AFCON in Zambia.

How ready are you for the crucial second leg against Sudan?

Our preparation has been going on well since we came back from Sudan where we won 2-1 in the first leg. We have been preparing physically and psychologically; and the coaches have been keeping us focused for the return leg. We know it won’t be an easy match despite the fact that we won the first leg. It has been a great experience for us playing against Burundi in the previous round because they are a very good side in terms of their tactical awareness. The atmosphere in the camp has been very great and by the Grace of God, we shall win in Lagos.

What does playing in Lagos mean to you?

We are happy to play the second leg against Sudan in Lagos. On a personal level, I’m very excited because I have not had the opportunity of playing in a Nigeria shirt in front of my family and fans in Lagos. My family and friends would be there to support us; and it would be a great opportunity for us to show the Lagos fans the stuff we are made of. We know the Lagos crowd will be massive and they will support us.

What are your expectations?

I’m not good at predicting results of matches but we are confident we are going to win. In this team, we have a lot of players who can score and it is not down to only me. We should expect goals from the team and if I get the opportunity, I would utilize it and if possible create opportunities for others to score for others too.

Does the fact that Nigeria is the defending champion of the U-20 AFCON bring about some form of pressure on you and your colleagues?

I think it’s a motivation but we must first qualify for the tournament in Zambia before talking about defending the trophy.

You and your mates have launched a hash tag #YAGI. What is the inspiration behind that message?

Let me start by saying that YAGI means ‘Young And Getting It’ and this was actually adopted from one of Nigeria’s talented Musician, Lil Kesh (Keshinro Ololade). From our experience so far on the continent, we would probably be one of the youngest teams and we want to continue to give our very best. Winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup competing with some of the best teams in the world has helped in building our confidence. Winning the trophy in Chile has always been our biggest motivation coupled with the encouragement we are getting from coach Emmanuel Amuneke; who was one of the best players during his playing days. There is a strong level of competition in the team but we are not jealous of one another; we see ourselves as brothers and friends.

Source: Confederation of African Football.