AFCON 2021: What matters most is the victory for my country – Awoniyi
The Super Eagles forward, Taiwo Awoniyi has said it was a privilege to be selected in the 28-man squad of the Nigerian team to compete in the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) taking place in Cameroon while acknowledging the fact that the major goal is to bring back home the trophy.
The Union Berlin forward noted that despite the short time available to prepare adequately for the tournament, the spirit, experience and discipline from each player matter most.
Awoniyi said it was a dream come through for him to be part of the squad of a country that parade stars at every level and promised to give his all to protect his name, please his family and the over 200,000,000 Nigerians.
According to him, the AFCON 2021 tournament which is different from a club league football is not an easy one; reiterating that every team has the intent on the trophy and this stifles the contest and makes it more competitive.
He said he missed the absence of Victor Osimhen, the prolific Napoli forward who has given his all for the country on national duties and was a key factor in the Super Eagles world cup qualifiers and that of the AFCON 2021.
Awoniyi further stated that all the time he played in the youth team, his dreams and aspirations were to play in the National Team with other Nigerian players while appreciating the privilege to be alongside Ndidi, Iheanacho, Simon and other teammates in the tournament.
“Fortunately for me, it is an honour and a privilege to be part of the squad, looking at the type of talents and players that we have in this country. For you to be part of this squad is something that you should see as a privilege.
“Of course, as I have always said, it is something I am proud of in my journey as an individual because it takes a lot of patience, a lot of dedication, and most importantly the grace of God.
“For me, the tournament has always been what I have been preparing for; to do the best for my country because I know what is behind for everyone of us.
“You have your family to fight for, a name to fight for and about 200,000,000 million people to fight for.
“To be honest, football nowadays has to do with preparations. It is all about what you know behind the scene and we should not deceive ourselves anymore. You feel you can just get on the pitch and perform miracles but it is all about what you have done before and that is what we will reciprocate on the game day.
“But looking at the short moment and short time for most countries, I think everyone is aware already and this is where our ‘athletism’ will come in as a player and the experience and maturity should set in from each individual. This is my own belief as a person.
“At the same time, we should know that there is preparation even within a short time and we still have to put things together before the first game which I think is still a little bit better than having nothing at all.
“With the preparation we had and the experience like I said earlier, putting everything together, I think everyone would be able to cope.
“To be honest, I am very grateful to God. For me, it is one of my greatest dreams. Everyone around me, my family, I have always said that right from the moment I had my chance in the youth, my dream was to play for Nigeria in any major tournament.
“When I look at the group, I think every country in it is there for the trophy. This is a tournament. It is not a club league or something. This is a tournament and every game counts so I think everyone is going there for business”, he said.
The Nigerian forward noted that the competition would not be as easy as envisaged because the other teams have the same mindset of winning the trophy back home.
He said that his focus is to work assiduously for the team while he puts in all his experience to practice on the pitch for the victory of the Nigeria Super Eagles in the tournament because according to his club coach, you have to work hard in all areas and support your team to win every game.
“I do not think it is a group like we felt that we are going to beat everyone because everybody is going there for business. I think other countries also have the same belief.
“I think it is all about how we set in as a country. How we get ourselves ready for the games and it all starts from the first game which is the powerful thing. From the first game, we know what’s next and we will go forward. So I think the first game is very important and how it is played.
“I think Victor is someone I would like to give a shout-out to because I think he should be here. But health is a personal belief. Looking at what he has done for the country in the qualifiers and the world cup qualifiers, this is a guy that has put in a lot of hard work for the country.
“He has delivered in most games. The passion he puts in counts so for him to be missing in this tournament is something I would feel and wish him well and believes he would come out strong from the situation at the moment.
“Looking at my teammates the likes of Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon, Kelechi Nwakali, these are guys that we have played together. I think it is just how we have grown as an individual at each level and meeting them again is something of joy.
“I think my strength is on the power I put in my game, the fighting spirit in me and the willingness, with the belief that you can always go as far as you want to go and that is my own greatest strength as an individual.
“I think in terms of football times like I think my strength is just about helping my teammates. Once I do all those dirty jobs is when my finishing aspect will come into play because that is what I learned from my present coach now in Union Berlin.
“He has always told me to keep on working, keep on working but the moment you believe your chances will come and I think that is my greatest strength as a player.
“For me, it is a dream. The moment you stop dreaming the dream becomes over. For me, as a guy, I keep on dreaming. So I believe the more I dream the more I keep on going.
“For me, the most important thing for me is the victory for the country and it does not matter who scores but for sure as a striker your job is to go in there and score goals. I have that aim in me and I believe I will score goals”, he added.