Enyimba striker and NPFL 2022/23 top scorer Emeka Obioma, in this interview with EBENEZER BAJELA, talks about his disappointment after he was not snubbed for the Eagles versus Sierra Leone AFCON qualifier, winning the Golden Boot and more
You emerged winner of the Golden Boot for the 2022/23 Nigeria Premier League with 16 goals. Would you say this was something you expected at the beginning of the season?
Winning the Golden Boot was something I really wanted and I was very happy and fulfilled to have been able to achieve that. From the beginning of the season, I told myself that I was going for the highest goals scorer award and nothing less. To God be the glory I was able to achieve that and even more delighted that we won the league title.
Scoring 16 goals in the NPFL is no mean feat. What’s the secret to your goals scoring success?
The only secret to that is hard work and the belief that I can do it. I was always reminding myself that I can do and it delights me that it happened.
Who was the toughest defender you faced last season?
The Nigeria Premier League has really come of age and very competitive. I can’t really say a particular person was the toughest defender I faced because of the quality in the league. All the defenders I faced last season were tough and none of them was a pushover. That is to tell you that the league is really doing well with a lot of good players.
What would you say of the league generally?
I think we are heading towards the right path and even the players are pleased with some of the development we saw. I believe this is just a start and I am confident that it will get better.
Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro was in attendance at all the Super 6 games. How impactful do you think his presence was on the players?
His presence at the recently concluded Super 6 actually did a lot. Personally I was happy that he was there and whoever watched the games would agree with me that our football is improving and the fact that it was broadcasted live on television contributed a whole lot. I hope that it will continue like this to help our football the more.
Peseiro invited four players from the NPFL to the Super Eagles for the 2023 AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone. Is this a testament to the fact that we have good players in the league?
It is a welcome development, unlike before when we used to have only overseas-based players. The team was usually made up of only players playing abroad, but now each time any national duty comes up, we have two or three players from the local league. It is a sign that the future is bright for the home-based players in the national team and I am sure that things will improve.
Former Eagles coach Gernot Rohr insisted that the league didn’t have good players to make the national team. What has changed between then and now?
Rohr is a human being and everyone has a different perspective on how he or she sees things. Thinking the league doesn’t have good players to make the national team may be from his own perspective, but it doesn’t mean every other coach will share same opinion or believe the same. He may have his reasons,.which are not known to anybody, but I believe Nigeria has a lot of talents both home and abroad. I strongly believe that if the home-based players are given more opportunities in the national team we will shock the world.
As the top scorer of the just-concluded NPFL season, are you disappointed that you didn’t get a call-up for the game against Sierra Leone?
Honestly I felt very bad that I didn’t get the invitation because I believed I should have been invited. But I also believe that in life everything has it’s time and I’m confident my time will come and I will be ready to grab it with both hands.
With the presence of Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman and other top forwards in the squad for the Sierra Leone game, do you think you would have stood a chance in the team?
I don’t think their presence should stop me from getting the call-up because I also had a good season and scoring 16 goals says a lot. Seriously, I was very confident that I was going to be invited but it is what it is and I don’t know what happened. But I am not going to give up on that dream.
You started with Heartland before joined Abia Warriors and now you are with Enyimba. Where is the next likely destination?
I just want to continue working hard now and I hope for God to direct me on my next move.
By direction do you mean Europe?
(Laughs) If it comes that’s very fine by me. Who doesn’t want good things? But until then I will continue to work hard and pray.
Enyimba will be on the continent next season. Having last won the CAF Champions League back in 2004 and the CAF Super Cup in 2005, do you think the team is ready for continental glory again?
Presently, we the players know what is at stake because we all came to Enyimba knowing the pedigree of the club and what they have achieved in the past. We want to write our names also in the club’s history and to the glory of God we already added one more star (league title) to the eight stars that were there and we hope to add the Champions League star to the badge as well. This will be a great thing to do and we can’t afford to let the nation at large down. We will continue to work hard and make everyone proud.
How is it like working with Finidi George?
He is a great person and friendly. It has been a pleasure working with him because I have learnt a lot from him being an ex-international and he is not strict. He is always there to support and help in any way possible. He is a wonderful lad.
How do you cope with female fans?
I interact with them the same way I relate with the male fans. I am just liberal and good to them because they also contributed to our success.
There’s no denying the fact that female fans throw themselves at celebrities. Have you had the experience?
I am a married man and I try not to allow anything come between me and my wife. I stay away from any negativity and just focus on what I am doing.
How does she cope with your travelling schedules?
She knows this is my work and what I love to do. She understands the nature of the job, that it takes a lot of travelling and we try to manage the situation well.