EXCLUSIVE: Former U-23 captain Azubuike on injury, Olawoyin & Super Eagles World Cup prospects

Former Nigeria U-23 captain and one-cap Super Eagles midfielder Azubuike Okechukwu is poised to make a comeback after an injury-plagued 11 months.

The Çaykur Rizespor midfielder tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the last preseason game of the previous Turkish League season, causing him to miss the entire campaign as he recovered from the injury.

EXCLUSIVE: Former U-23 captain Azubuike on injury, Olawoyin & Super Eagles World Cup prospects
Photo : Seskim / Icon Sport

His recovery went well, and he was listed for the last four games of the season, although he did not participate in any of them.

Okechukwu told Afrik-Foot that he is ready to get back into action, expressing his eagerness to return to the game.

“Injuries are part of the game, even though no player wants to be injured. For me, I was gutted to have sustained that injury during pre-season as I was set on helping my team in the new season,” he said.

“It was devastating, but I had to take it in good faith. It is hard when you are outside and see your teammates playing football. You want to be involved; you want to be out there with them, fighting on the pitch.

“However, I thank God for everything, and I believe that I will come back stronger. The injury was a bad one, but I am back, and I hope to do well in the coming season,” the former İstanbul Başakşehir midfielder stated.

Okechukwu happy with Olawoyin progress

The 27-year-old also revealed his joy at seeing his Nigerian teammate Ibrahim Olawoyin adapt to the Super Lig with impressive performances.

“I was happy to see my team play the way they did last season, and also Olawoyin (Ibrahim). He had a fantastic campaign last season,” he said.

“For me, I was happy for him because a lot of people did not expect that from him. I was not happy not playing, but I was happy with how he adapted to the league and how he performed for the team.”

Okechukwu also commented on the Super Eagles and their performance in the qualifiers, insisting that the players need to play as a unit and work harder than their opponents.

EXCLUSIVE: Former U-23 captain Azubuike on injury, Olawoyin & Super Eagles World Cup prospects
Photo by Icon Sport

Super Eagles can still qualify for World Cup

Azubuike, who captained Nigeria to the 2016 Rio Olympics alongside current Super Eagles players William Troost-Ekong and Sadiq Umar, emphasized that there are no minnows in football anymore.

“We are one of the best teams in Africa, but right now, names don’t play football. I think we need to run more,” he said.

“I saw the last two games; I think we need to run more as a team and play better football. For a very long time, we have not seen the Super Eagles play the type of football we are used to.

“If we can keep the ball more and run more than the opponent, then I believe we are going to scale through.

“Like I said, names do not play football anymore; there are no small teams, no underdogs. So hopefully, if we run better, we will make it out of the group and qualify for the World Cup,” Okechukwu added.

EXCLUSIVE: Former U-23 captain Azubuike on injury, Olawoyin & Super Eagles World Cup prospects
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a veteran Nigerian sports journalist with over 20 years of experience covering the beautiful game across Africa. Andrew served as a Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 Men's National Team for three years, offering a unique perspective on the future stars of Nigerian football.

Beyond reporting, Andrew is a pioneer in sports graphics creation within Nigeria. His expertise extends to sports kit design, making him a true multi-faceted talent in the African sports landscape.

Andrew's experience is vast, with collaborations encompassing prestigious names like Kickoff, SuperSport, the NFF (Nigeria Football Federation), and the NPFL (Nigeria Professional Football League)