Ahead of the Super Eagles’ crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against the Pirates of Seychelles in Victoria on Saturday, thenff.com spoke to defender William Ekong on how life has been at his new club in Italy, Udinese FC, and what to expect from the three-time African champions when they regroup in the western Indian Ocean archipelago, for the first time since the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia. Excerpts:
It’s good to see you making remarkable progress in your career and at a good pace as well. What can you attribute this development too?
It has been hard work, persistence and the help of God. I’m grateful for where I am now but definitely not satisfied yet; I’m looking forward to the next challenge.
With just a few games so far, would you say your arrival in Italy is helping you to become the defender you want to be?
It has pulled me out of my comfort zone again and I feel like I’m already making some good progress since my arrival, but I’m only just getting started.
Now to the national team. The Super Eagles have to quickly get back on track after the disappointment at the FIFA World Cup in Russia. How determined are you and your team to qualify for, and do well at the 2019 AFCON?
Yeah, it was hard for all of us not to make progress from the group stage at the World Cup. But I still look back with pride about the team because our outing in Russia has definitely made us hungrier to qualify for the 2019 AFCON and to go all the way there.
You appeared to have gained so much confidence playing with the Super Eagles. How well does this make you feel and what do you think the future holds for you in the team?
It has been amazing being able to represent Nigeria for some years now, putting on the green-white-green with pride. I am proud of the medal we brought home to Nigeria from the Olympics Football Tournament in Brazil in 2016, but my big aim is to win something with the Super Eagles. I am really looking forward to that.
We play Seychelles this week and then Libya in October in back-to-back games. Are you optimistic about the team’s chances in these matches?
I think we have demonstrated now that when Nigeria plays at its best there aren’t many teams we have to fear. But it will be a hard job in the next two months and I know the boys and staff are taking these games very seriously. But of course, I believe if we perform at our optimum, we will garner the points from the remaining matches and qualify for the final tournament.