Ifeanyi Ifeanyi was one of the key players in the Manu Garba led Flying Eagles team that represented the country at the African Youth Championship and the recently concluded FIFA World Youth Championship in New Zealand. The defensive midfielder in this interview with Amos Joseph shares his ''memorable experience'' and painful exit at the world stage.
Question: You were at the African Youth Championship and also made the team that went to the FIFA World Cup in New Zealand, how will you describe the experience?
It was an awesome experience I must say. Being at the African Championship alone was a great thing for me and my career, I thought it was the ultimate until i got to the world cup and realized that it's a different ball game. From the environment, pitches, weather and the teams that were involved it was just a different level.
Question: You guys lost the first match against Brazil, what was the felling like after the game considering the team's preparation towards the tournament.
It wasn't easy at all. It was hell! Because we knew we could do better than that, we knew we were better than Brazil and we could hold our own against any opposition. We got to camp that night and could not eat, everybody was grumbling, just because we knew we could have won the match. But in football you never can tell until 90 minutes.
Question: What motivated the victory against Korea DPR and Hungary in the last two group matches?
Before every match, we always have pre-match meeting with the coaches. They made us believe we could do better than what we did against Brazil. They made us believe in ourselves old us they believes in us as well, we also knew we could do better and gave our best in the match against North Korea and Hungary to come out victorious.
Question: Can you tell us what you think went wrong against Germany, which saw the end to your quest?
So many things went wrong on that day. Firstly, we have never played under that very weather before. We've been playing at New Plymouth which was not in the night. The second round games were to be played in Christ Church, which was colder than our previous venue (New Plymouth). The time for the match was 7.30 in the evening, we never trained at that time. The weather was very cold so it affected us a lot. Secondly, our minds were not together. Some of the foreign-based professionals were feeling too big. Unlike the African Championship where we were all working together.
Question: In essence, are you saying that the inclusion of some of the foreign-based the professionals affected the team?
Somehow the inclusion of these players i'll say affected the team and also helped on the other hand. You could see the likes of Success, Musa Yahaya and Wilfred Ndidi against Brazil giving their best to prove their mettle as professionals. But the fitness level could not be compared to those of us who have been training together for a couple of months.
Question: In all, what was your best moment in the tournament?
Well, my best moment in that tournament was against Hungary because we knew if we had not won that game, it would have been something else. We would have been counting our fingers waiting to be part of the best losers. But we came out strong, did our best and got the three points, we won 2-0. After the game we were all very happy.
Question: The world cup is over, what is your vision from here or What would it mean for you to play in Europe?
My vision is to play in Europe. That has always been my dream, to play in the Champions League someday. But I know with God all thing are possible.
Question: Can you mention some players you look up to?
I look up to players like Andre Pirlo, Yaha Toure and John Obi Mikel. They are players i adore in the game.
Question: What is your advise to other young ones out there who also aspire to play for the national team some day?
For me first, is self-believe. Because you may go somewhere and the coach does not believe in you but you need to prove the coach wrong. Also hard work is very important. I train very hard, I don't joke with my training. Work like there's no tomorrow, and above all is prayer because that is the key.