In this interview with Naija Sports Grill, Hapoel Hadera of Israel goalkeeper, Austin Ejide speaks about his club career, World Cup and sundry issues.
NSG: How is your season going? Are you okay with your performance so far?
Ejide: My season is going good. And I’m so happy with my performance. My fitness is at the top level and the points are coming in.
NSG: Top level? Are you not feeling your age? You should be slowing down now.
Ejide: (Laughs) I’m only 33 years old, ageing like fine wine. My daily routine, exercise, diet and spiritual mindset keeps me up and going.
NSG: You mean the older wine tastes better?
Ejide: Yes of course. On a professional level goalkeeping is all about experience.
NSG: So the experience counts.
NSG: Can you candidly say that you are better now, than when you were younger?
Ejide: Yes of course. With experience, I’ve seen it all, kept in different atmospheric conditions. It makes me bold to face any opponent.
NSG: You have kept in 18 matches so far with 10 clean sheets, what’s your motivation?
Ejide: The drive to succeed and be victorious keeps me going. I always want to be better than I was and I like to win.
NSG: Your team is currently second on the log, can you smell promotion?
Ejide: Yes I’m staying positive, working very hard because my eyes are set on the trophy.
NSG: You have been plagued by injury all through your career. Have you overcome that now?
Ejide: What doesn’t kill you makes you
strong. I’m stronger and better now. I feel much fitter now.
NSG: You played second fiddle to Vincent (Enyeama) most part of your international career. Did you regret being in the same goalkeeping generation as Vincent? How did you feel all the while you were on the bench for him?
Ejide: You know there are so many things that cannot be explained especially when you are not the official or the coach. The word ‘regret’ isn’t in my dictionary. On that note, I don’t regret anything. I have a lot to offer but the coach has the final say and Vincent was his choice. I supported and I’m still supporting the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
NSG: You have been to three World Cups but hasn’t tasted a minute of World Cup action. How does that make you feel? Do you feel a drive to have a World Cup cap before you quit?
Ejide: To be frank with you, I wish I was given an opportunity to show my skills but nevertheless God knows best. Football is more than a game for me. It’s my gift and I’ve been carrying it out with all diligence. Anybody who knows me will attest to my high level of professionalism and the ability to deliver at any given moment. No need to beat around the bush. With my experience, hard work, drive you name it, I know I’m the best candidate to represent Nigeria. That’s my heart’s desire. It’s not over till it’s over and it isn’t over for Austin Ejide.
NSG: Many believe the current keepers Gernot Rohr is parading aren’t good enough for the World Cup. Do you agree?
Ejide: Every good Coach has a strategy. I believe that coach Rohr is experienced in the game and knows what he is doing. Some people were born kings and some are made kings. You do the maths. I encourage and support the upcoming players in every department. Your performance always speaks for you.
NSG: What if you are recalled to the national team? Are you ready?
Ejide: A professional doesn’t prepare but lives prepared. I am always ready.
NSG: How far do you think Nigeria can go at the World Cup?
Ejide: With the right players, focus and a fighting spirit Nigeria is capable of going far.
NSG: Would you rate the current Eagles better than the ones paraded during your time?
Ejide: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Football is all about time. The more time you put into a team the better it becomes because it’s all about individual skill and, most importantly, team work. The word ‘better’ to me is derogatory. But I will confidently say that time allowed the past group to be more efficient in the game.
NSG: So now that the wine is tasting better, when will Ejide quit the game?
Ejide: (Prolonged laughter) I feel great. I’m at the top of my game and I like it. I’m not a trader or a doctor. Football is my passion. It makes me happy and keeps me healthy and in shape. I don’t intend to retire any time soon.
NSG: South American players are known to return to their countries and play at least one more season before retirement. Will we see Ejide, that former Gabros FC keeper, play one more season in NPFL before retiring?
Ejide: Gabros FC holds so many memories for me. That is one of the cradles of my career. I support the team. Some people have this mentality of ‘oh I’m 50, I’m getting ready to die’. Maybe it’s because of my spiritual mindset. You are as old as you feel . You can be 20 and feel 60. That’s not my mindset. Only time will tell.
NSG: How would you rate the Nigerian league now, compared to the time you were playing at home?
Ejide: They are getting better. I can see teams losing home games now which wasn’t possible in our time.
NSG: You are yet to answer that question. Will you play in the NPFL again before retiring?
Ejide: I will always support NPFL in any way I can.
NSG: As a passing shot, should Rohr give Ejide a call if he needs him?
Ejide: Sure. My phone is on 24/7.
NSG: And you won’t disappoint him?
Ejide: I’m ready. Anytime!