Lobi Stars utility player and Super Eagles fringe defender, Moses Bunde Hungwa has said the ear of home-based players being used as training materials has come and gone as he affirmed that Coach Stephen Keshi is ready to provide a level playing field for every player to fight for shirts in the national team. In this interview with Shot! hard tackling defender spoke on the new Eagles and his flourishing career. Excerpts:
You were in Eagles camp but could not make the team to Faro, Portugal, what happened?
What happened has been explained by Coach Stephen Keshi. He said if it were possible, he would have taken all of us to the camp in Portugal. What this means is that all of us were good but he had to take a limited number. It happened that I was not among the few that were chosen.
Were you disappointed by your exclusion?
No I wasn't because I know that it is not yet my time. I would have been disappointed only if I failed to impress the coaches. This was not my first attempt. I was in camp in Portugal under Coach Austin Eguavoen. I know that my time will come soon.
But what was your reaction when you get the news that you were invited again to the national camp?
My reaction was that of happiness. But honestly, I did not expect it because the league had ended and I thought since nobody was watching me, I would not be invited at this time. But when the invitation came, I thanked God for the opportunity.
So did you learn anything new under Coach Keshi?
The truth is that even a day in the national team can change your game positively. There is no how you will stay in camp for over a week without learning something new. I learnt a lot under the coach. I can say I have returned to Lobi a better player. My experience will prove useful to my club.
When you started playing football, did it occur to you that one day you will be a Super Eagles player?
There is no talented player who will not think of playing for his or her country. I knew that one day, I will play for the Super Eagles. I always prayed to God to make way for me to show my skills at the highest level. Today, I have cause to thank God immensely. Without God, I wouldn't be here.
How far do you think the Super Eagles will go at the 2013 AFCON in South Africa?
I am confident the Eagles will go far but that will depend on how they play the group matches. They have to take each game as it comes. It is a step by step thing. When you are able to win your first game, it gives you the confidence to win the second. The second fires you up for the third and it continue till you get to the finals where anything can happen. So winning the opening group match is important.
But do you see the local players giving the foreign based players a good fight for shirts?
I am sure the home-based players will give a good account of themselves, if given a chance. Mind you, the foreign players are not coming to get automatic shirts. They are coming to fight for shirts. Keshi has already said no player, whether foreign or local is sure of a permanent shirt in the team. This is a big boost for the local players. This tells you that Home-based Eagles are no longer training materials.
Talking about the opportunity for players in the NPL to play for the Super Eagles, how do you think this is going to encourage the growth of the domestic league?
It is going to lift the Nigerian league because some of the home based players are now regulars in the national team. Talk of players like Reuben Gabriel, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike and Uzoenyi have been playing regularly in the qualifiers. It will help Nigerian Premier League players to work harder because the success of these players will inspire the rest.
It is every Nigerian player's dream to play for a club in Europe. If given the opportunity which club will you like to join?
My Dream is to play for Barcelona in Spain. I want to play for the Spanish giants because my role model, Dani Alves is there. If I can team up with him, it will be a fantastic. Although when I started, David Tyavkase was my role model but now it is Dani Alves. The truth is that I was inspired to play football by David Tyavkase. When I was small, I watched him and I wanted to be like him. I started as a striker, I moved to the midfield and now I am playing in the defence. So want to model my game after Alves.
How did you start your career?
I started right from my primary school. I was a member of the school team and that continued up to my secondary school. When I completed my secondary education, I continued to play for youth teams until I was recruited to play for Lobi Feeder team. From the Feeder team, the vice-Chairman and Technical Adviser of Lobi Stars, Mr. Dominic Iorfa promoted me to the senior team.
Talking about the Confederation Cup, how ready is Lobi Stars for the challenge?
We are all looking forward to this challenge as you rightly called it. We have been training hard and I believe that by the special grace of God, we are going to be worthy ambassadors of Benue State and Nigeria.
Is it true that Lobi Stars has lost many of its players to other clubs in the NPL?
It is true that we have lost some key players but that is not to say Lobi Stars FC is depleted. Most of the players are still around and the management has got good replacements for those who have left. In fact among the key players, it is only David Tyavkase, Jonah Abutu and Abaluwo that have left us. The new players have joined us and we are blending ahead of the competition and the NPL season.
Which of the players who have left the club are you going to miss most?
Without doubt we are going to miss David Tyavkase and Jonah Abutu. These are highly experienced players who played a big role in Lobi's success story last season. They advised us the younger players, on and off the field of play. They provided the much needed confidence in the midfield. We are going to miss them but life must continue.
You are one of Lobi Stars utility players. You play anywhere on the field. Don't you think this will have negative effect on your game?
I feel so honoured to be a utility player. I play according to the coaches instructions. If they want me to play in the attack, I have no problem. If they say I should play in the midfield, it is still oaky for me and when I come back to the defence, I have no problem. It gives me a lot of advantages. When I started playing football, I played in the attack. I later moved to the midfield and now I am playing in the defence.
Which players did you like to combine with in Lobi Stars?
I liked to combine with David Tyavkase, Tony Okpotu, Emmanuel Ajia, Jonah Abutu, Esosa Igbinoba and Moses Orkuma. We understood one another so much. Whenever we were playing together, we have the confidence to put the ball on the ground and play with the required confidence.
From the defence, you scored a couple of goals last season for Lobi. Which of the goals would you say was the best?
My best goal Lobi came against ABS of Ilorin at home, that is at Katsina-Ala. The goal was special because I had to move from the defence to the attack. We were losing the game and we needed to change things. So for now that is my best goal.
What is your saddest moment?
Without doubt the defeat we suffered in the hands of Heartland FC of Owerri in the finals of last year's Federation Cup stands out as my saddest day. I don't know why we could not lift the trophy. All the same, I must thank God for taking us that far.
Was it a case of stage fright or too much pressure?
It was neither stage fright nor pressure. We had played against Heartland and beaten them before so it was not a new thing playing against them. Talking about pressure, if there was any, it was not from any other person but ourselves because we wanted to write our names in gold. It is only God that knows why we lost that match.
You have come up against so many players in the NPL. Who is your toughest opponent?
My toughest opponent no doubt is Reuben Gabriel of Kano Pillars. He is a tough guy and it is very difficult to disposes him of the ball. He is always mobile and it is very difficult to mark him. You will always wish you have such a player in your side.
What made Lobi so strong last season?
It was hard work and commitment on the part of the players and the management. As players we made sure that we reciprocated the kind gestures of the state government. Moreover, our vice-chairman, Dominic Iorfa had set a continental target and so we all worked hard towards it. In the end, we succeeded.
Having worked for so long with Iorfa, what kind of man is he?
Iorfa is indeed different thing to different people. Personally, I can say he is a very nice man. However, if you assess him from a distance, you won't get it right. He is one of the most criticized football administrator because most people don't take time to study him. He is considered to be a difficult man but when you get closer to him, you will understand that he is one of the easiest men around. All he wants is results. Give him results and you will be Iorfa's best friend.