“Super Eagles Call-up is a Big Deal,” EPL Star Ahead of Sierra Leone Clash

“Super Eagles Call-up is a Big Deal,” EPL Star Ahead of Sierra Leone Clash
Credit: Iconsport

Nottingham Forest striker Taiwo Awoniyi has spoken ahead of the AFCON 2023 qualifiers fixtures match between the Nigeria national football team and the Sierra Leone national football team.

Awoniyi, who is returning to the Super Eagles squad for the first time since September 2022, wants to make his mark on the team. Having featured and won titles for the national team’s youth sides, he is hoping to play a role in future title campaigns of the senior national team, starting with the AFCON 2023 tournament in Ivory Coast. He shared his excitement about the team and what fans can expect.

“You can’t be in the Super Eagles forever,” Awoniyi says

Taiwo Awoniyi replaced Terem Moffi in the squad after the national team’s Portuguese manager José Peseiro decided he had performed better for Nottingham Forest than Moffi did for OGC Nice.

His inclusion elicited mixed feelings because it was a case of two qualified candidates. However, Nigerians are optimistic that he can make a difference alongside Victor Osimhen when the Super Eagles take on the Leone Stars in Liberia on Sunday 18 June 2023.

The former Union Berlin striker said that he is “proud and overjoyed” to return to the team while also noting that the national team does not belong to one player alone. “It’s a great privilege for any player, it’s an honour, and it should not be taken for granted, Awoniyi told Soccernet in an exclusive interview.

“I’m very happy I was invited, I am proud and overjoyed as well. However, the Super Eagles is not a home for everybody, you can’t be there forever because it is not for one player.

“You may be there today and not be there tomorrow. But the main thing is that you should put in your best when you get the opportunity. Playing for your country is a pride for any player, and if you look at the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the Laliga, and other leagues, we have a lot of Nigerian players doing well.”

Awoniyi defends Peseiro’s selection

Nigerians are miffed at the exclusion of players like Gift Orban and Raphael Onyedika, and at the inclusion of Ahmed Musa. However, Awoniyi defended the coach’s selection by pointing out how large the talent pool in the country is. He also reiterated that being called up should remain an “honour and privilege” for any player regardless of their status in the team.

“When they make the lists, Nigerians would always ask why a certain player is there on it. Nigerians would always have something to say, that is to show how big the Nation is in terms of talent, he said. “So I tell myself that getting the call-up does not mean I should take it for granted. I’m happy I’m there, but I believe it’s a big honour and privilege.”

Awoniyi has five caps and one goal for the Super Eagles, with the goal coming during the AFCON 2021 tournament in Cameroon. The Super Eagles exited that edition of the continental showpiece at the round of 16 and Peseiro has been tasked with producing a better finish in the 2023 edition.

This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago

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