Anayo Iwuala: My family, my football backbone
Enyimba FC striker Anayo Iwuala is upbeat about his recent back-to-back international caps with the Super Eagles in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho even as he speaks glowingly about the unalloyed support from his immediate family in his exciting football career, reports TAOFEEK BABALOLA.
His was not a rag- to-riches story per see rather Enyimba forward Anayo Iwuala was obsessed with playing football and he pursued it with gusto as a career.
“I started playing football from a tender age,” Iwuala told NationSport. “Actually, nobody introduced football to me, I was just interested and whenever I saw people playing football, I joined them.
“I always wanted to play and gradually I started playing football,” the 22-year-old added.
But choosing football as a career wasn’t without difficulties for Iwuala at the beginning; he faced a tough challenged from his parent who insisted he must go to school before allowing him to choose football as a profession. He also encountered a life threatening injury that kept him out for months.
To his parent, having western education, would help him in many ways in his choosing career.
He explained: “I experienced some difficulty at the beginning of my career because my parent wanted me to go to school.
“I got an offer from Delta Force to start my football career and on the verge of signing for them I had to drop the ambition to go to school. It was a very difficult decision to make but I had to obey my parent,
“Again, when I came to Enyimba, I sustained a vital injury that took me out for some months. That was some of the difficulties I encountered in playing football.”
But after obtaining an Ordinary Diploma from Federal Polytechnic, Nekede in Imo State, Iwuala received his parent blessing and enjoying maximum support from them.
“My family was like a backbone to me. I am very grateful to have a supportive family that always gives me necessary support needed to improve on my career.
“I don’t think I have any other profession in mind other than football as a career right now. I just love football and that was all I wanted to do,” he said.
The pacy winger was one of the three home-based players invited for the double header Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin Republic and Lesotho in March by the head coach Gernot Rohr.
But out of the three players, the Imo State-born player wrote his name in Nigerian football as the only local-based player that featured in the two matches-the feat he said has improved his confident and his profile.
“Going to the national team was a great experience for me and it is a great feeling. It was a good thing for me to play alongside top stars that are plying their trade in Europe in the national team. It was another good experience for me and it will improve my profile as a player,” he said.
He added: “I feel happy and I feel okay that coach entrusted me by giving me my first cap in the national team (in the game against Benin Republic) and also gave me another chance to play in Lagos. I am happy because that feat has improved my confident. I must confess that playing for the national team; Super Eagles of Nigeria is my special moment as footballer.”
In one of the two matches, Iwuala don the iconic number 10 jersey previously won by former Super Eagles captain Austin Jay Jay Okocha when he played against Lesotho in Lagos.
“It was just like wearing any other jersey number and I don’t feel any pressure wearing number 10 jersey,” he averred.
Ever since he made his appearances for the Super Eagles, Iwuala’s value has increased and his club, Enyimba International have reportedly placed a price tag of €1m on new prodigy.
“Honestly speaking, it is a huge price tag I must say but I think it is just an asking price. If any serious buyer comes forward the price can be negotiated,” Iwuala explained.
Enyimba is the only Nigerian representative remaining in the CAF continental game. The People’s Elephants are playing in the CAF Confederation Cup Group alongside Orlando Pirates of South Africa, Algeria’s Entente Setif and Libya’s Al Ahly Benghazi.
Iwuala believes that Enyimba have all it takes to qualify from the group despite the challenges facing the team.
“Sure, whatever circumstances that are facing Enyimba right now I can see us qualifying from the group all things being equal. It is result that matters and anything is possible in football. We are actually asking for everything. It is our target from the beginning of the season to win everything both local and continental level.”
As a young player, he has set a personal target for himself which is, “To continue to create record and improve on my game, not only at Enyimba but when I get to play in Europe too.”
Last week, Super Eagles captain Ahmed Musa joined Kano Pillars for a second stint, and Iwuala believes that the ex-Leicester City, CSKA Moscow forward return to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) will bring more respect to the league.
“Kudos to the organisers of the league for projecting the image of the league in a better way. It is no doubt that Musa’s return to play in the league will give more respect to our league. His arrival will add more excitement to the league. It is a welcome development.”
Iwuala started his football career at Delta Force FC, Asaba after finishing his OND before pitching his tent with Dakkada FC and make his second journey to back to Delta Force before he finally joined Enyimba International.
Since joining Enyimba FC in the 2019/2020 season from Delta Force FC, Iwuala has endured a tough start to life in Aba.
A delayed debut due to injury ensured the winger played just over ten games in his first season at the club. But in the 2020/2021, he could probably be the first name on the team sheet these days based on his found form this term. He has been a utility player in all competition for the Elephants.
Source: Sports – Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics
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