Nollywood actor Ray Adeka, famously known as Jeje, talks about Barcelona struggles since Lionel Messi exit, his sports life, and more in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA

When you are not on set, how do you relax?

 I like to read and listen to podcasts.  I like music a lot, so it’s also nice and I hang out with friends. That’s basically how I relax.  I read, listen to podcasts, and hang out with my friends.  I just socialise, so it’s nice to have a lot of friends.

Are you a sports lover?

There was a time I used to really watch football back when I was young, but now, life happened. When I was a kid, I used to watch Barcelona, Champions League of course, and sometimes, the Premier League but not so much.  I like Liverpool. I used to play football when I was younger but now, the only sport I enjoy playing is table tennis.  I enjoy that game but then I workout, I like to work out.  That can also be a sport.  I go to the gym.  It helps me relax.

Are you still a Barcelona fan?

I still identify with Barcelona. I used to follow them more then but I still am a Barcelona fan.  I still love them.  I know Lionel Messi has left but I still like them.

Looking at what the club has been going through, as a fan of the club, how have you been able to take it in?

 Well, if you look at Barcelona now, you may think the club is not doing so well, and even though I don’t follow so much like I used to, I’m aware of what happened.  The days of when the club were dominating seems to not be there, it’s now a whole mess.  But again, I believe that the club that was once great can always be great again.  So I’m hopeful that things will turn around eventually. Of course, I don’t know if we can ever go back to the days of Ronaldinho and the rest.  I don’t know if that’s going to happen again but I believe anything can happen, anything can change.  I’m so impressed with the younger players at the club now, Pedri, Ansu Fati and the rest of them, they have been fantastic.  I’m sure with the right decisions; the club can always come back. I’m still impressed with the club. I mean, it’s a lot of titles, you can’t just go down.  Liverpool also had their own struggles, they were strong at some point, then they did not play like that for a while and then they came back.  So I believe Barcelona can do that.

In your own opinion, who would you rate as Barcelona’s greatest player ever?

I like Messi, I would have said Ronaldinho because I really enjoyed the days when Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o were there, it was crazy. Ronaldinho is someone I really enjoyed watching but Messi,  of course.

How did you feel when Messi announced that he would be leaving the club?

Nobody liked it, I hated it.  Nobody enjoyed hearing that.  So of course, I’m with everybody but again, there was a part of me that was not so angry because I got tired of the comparison that Ronaldo has played in different clubs but Messi has only played in Barcelona. I didn’t like the argument.  There was a part of me that wanted him to go out there and prove that he can function in other clubs.  So I was a bit excited, I won’t lie, I was sad that he was leaving the club but I really wanted people to see him prove it to everyone.  And I think he proved that when he won the World Cup with Argentina because the Ronaldo fans always say that he only won major trophies at Barcelona.  So I was happy he won that World Cup but I was sad that he left.

Do you agree with the argument that after Messi won the World Cup,  he already proved that he was way ahead of Ronaldo?

He has won everything now, that is not an argument again, that World Cup trophy should have been the end of that argument. For me, that was the deciding factor. At the end of the day, it is the data, he has the cups.  So what else? Anyone that is saying any argument is just being silly.

What do you think of the Super Eagles?

I don’t get excited too much about them, there is just something about them.  Sometimes, they just give you so much hope and at the end of the day, it will end badly.  So now I am more relaxed about them.  I don’t have to worry.  There was a time we were complaining, I don’t complain anymore.  Of course, I’m excited to see what’s going on but now I really don’t care so much.

We saw what happened at the Abuja Stadium against Ghana when we failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.  Personally, how did you feel?

It was terrible, it was shameful.  I hated every moment of it and like losing to Ghana, come on.  I think that was when I finally threw it in the towel and said ‘I’m done with these guys.’  I feel they need to revamp every single thing that has to do with Super Eagles, every single thing from the management down, up and down and sideways.  I don’t know what they’re doing there, I feel there’s a lot of nepotism there, I don’t know what’s going on. You can’t tell me we cannot have a formidable team, I mean, we have a country of about 200 million people that are very, very big on sports. You can’t tell me that we can’t do better than what we’re doing now. It’s a mess up.  I realize there are other issues but I think it starts with nepotism. It’s not just about having the stuff that they have to do but also to tell them, it’s different.  It’s not making it so much of a good experience for the fans.

While I was growing up, what sport did you play?

I played football a lot, and I think most young guys did.  I broke my left arm while playing football. I went to where my mom was so I went to her and held my hand then I went to the hospital and they put a cast.

Was there any form of civil disobedience growing up?

I was not very stubborn but I liked the outside a lot.  So my dad would ask me ‘Can’t you just stay in the house? Is the house biting you?’ but I just liked to be out.  I was always trying to play football. It was a small pitch we played in and I was always in a hurry to be there, I played a lot.

Which female athletes will you say you have a crush on?

 I like Serena Williams, I admire her a lot.

Why didn’t you consider a career in sports?

 I don’t know.  I don’t think I ever considered it, I enjoyed playing football a lot, but I didn’t just think in that line. My family is very big on school, so any other thing was not fully encouraged, but I don’t think I ever saw sports as something to do. Although, for you to be passionate about something, you have to be in an environment that encourages it, and I don’t think I had that experience of being excited about sports so much. I was thinking I was going to be a doctor at some point, so I think that is why sports never stuck in my head.

What was your memorable moment watching Nigeria play?

The Atlanta ’96 Olympics were very exciting to watch. I was very young then, but I can remember how the whole environment was with every goal they scored, the entire neighbourhood would erupt. I think that has been the only time that Eagles have made everyone proud, thinking about it now, I just feel really sad and unhappy now. Super Eagles will either start well, and dash everyone’s hopes later or they will lose in the beginning too easily.

If you happened to be Victor Osimhen’s agent, what club would you advise him to join?

I have seen players go to big clubs and it did not work out.  I’ve seen players do that and it’s not what we expect at the end of the day. Definitely not Manchester United, maybe Real Madrid. Real Madrid are a big club also, I think Real Madrid but personally, I would also wait.

Do you think he has what it takes to fill Karim Benzema’s boots?

 Benzema’s boots are very big, they are very big boots to fill but if you must take a shot, then take a promising shot.  It will be a good spot to see, there will be a lot of comparison and there will be a lot of pressure.  When you are filling a big man’s shoes, of course, you are expected to perform better than him but he has something, he can only get better, I feel it’s worth the shot.

Will you encourage your kids to go into sports?

 Of course, basketball,  or football.  I will want them to pursue their dreams Like I did pursue mine, my father allowed me to pursue my dreams.  He would have wanted all of us to be doctors But here I am, an actor and he is also still very proud of me.  So yeah, if he or she wants to do sports,   I will encourage him.

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