Plateau United goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye has insisted that there are talented players in the Nigeria League who are good enough for the Super Eagles, but Gernot Rohr and his assistants have not been patient with them.
The 2007 FIFA U17 World Cup champion said home-based players contributed immensely to the Eagles triumph at AFCON 2013.
He spoke to SCORENIGERIA on his career as well as the good and the bad of the Nigeria league.
The full interview:
SCORENIGERIA: Dele, did you actually start your career as a goalkeeper?
AJIBOYE: No, I started as an outside left player. One day we had a game in a competition and no goalkeeper was available. The coach asked us who can man the post and I volunteered to do so. I did well in the competition and that was it.
What inspired you to finally choose goalkeeping?
I was inspired by the encouragement I got after that competition.
You won the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2007, how was it and how did the journey start?
It was a great and fantastic experience. I remember the camp was thrown open towards the last two qualifying games against Morocco. Laide Okanlawon was suspended for both games. I was second choice at Prime FC then. I went to camp and coach Yemi Tella gave me my chance.
Who are your role models?
Vincent Enyeama and Gigi Buffon. They are fantastic goalkeepers who have made the job look so easy because they are calm and focused.
What was your parents’ reaction to your choice of career?
Honestly, my father was against he because trained other people’s children and he wanted his own children to also go to school. The like of Muka Ray, Murphy Ray stayed with my father for sometimes.
But my mum was in support of my choice to play football. In fact, three days to her death, she told me no matter what I face in football, I should not quit it for any other thing.
Who motivated you most in your career?
I will say my mum. Her words have kept me going to strive harder.
While growing up, did you do any other thing apart from playing football?
Yes, my father is a cocoa farmer and also has a store that sells fabrics. I followed him to farm not mainly to go and farm but because of those roasted yam and corn that we enjoyed. I also stayed at his fabric shop, in fact that was what I would have done had I not played football.
You played in Spain for three years, how was the experience?
It was great. Present Elbar goalkeeper Chas Vias was my team mate at Pontevedra. He taught me a lot. I learnt a lot in Spain and that has been helping my career up till now.
Why do you think it is difficult for African based goalkeeper to get a deal in Europe lately?
It’s because of our leagues. It’s not attractive enough. With the little experience I have, they believe more in their goalkeepers who have better training and exposure from the beginning.
We lack the facilities to bring best out of the goalkeeper here for foreign clubs to be interested.
It’s our natural talent that has kept us going.
Like when I was in Spain, there are special trainings for goalkeepers, like working with machines and many other things, but these are not here.
Is this where Ajiboye wanted to be financially?
I thank God. I have my own home though it may not be a mansion. I never believe I will be where I am now, but I thank God. I can travel to anywhere in the world whenever I want to.
When you returned for Korea 2007, where you won FIFA U17 World Cup, there was this news that you were welcomed at airport by your wife and three kids?
You know when one is progressing, there will be some enemies that do not wish you well. There were lots of other stories by the agent of a goalkeeper who did not make the squad.
Late Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi investigated and found out who was responsible, they later apologized, but I won’t mention name so that peace will continue to reign.
I never had a wife then talk less of children. The people who came to meet us then at Teslim Balogun Stadium were Ganiyu Oseni’s girlfriend and my girlfriend then, I carried them up with the trophy.
The Super Eagles use home-based players as training materials, what do you have to say on this?
Ahmed Musa, Shehu Abdulahi and others started in Nigeria league. The home-based player in AFCON 2013 contributed to the team’s success at the competition. People saw what they did and that was possible because the coaches believe in them, were patient with them.
Now the coaches don’t have patience with home-based players. They expect them to be the same with foreign-based forgetting they have different exposure and so the time to get best out of them might vary.
If they don’t want Nigeria league players to get a chance in the national team, they should cancel the league.
It’s not only Eagles now, but all the national teams coaches now go to foreign-based players.
We need encouragement.
A South Korean club negotiated with me during the U17 World Cup in 2007, but NFF officials then advised me not to sign because it was not good for my career.
You have three caps for the Super Eagles, are hoping for more?
Sure, I know I have lot to offer the Eagles, but I need another chance.
Nigerians should not judge me by the CHAN performance because there are lots of things that happened in camp that people don’t know. Players don’t need distraction from people that suppose to know ahead of games.
What can you say about Nigeria league?
It’s improving, before officiating was very bad but for few seasons now you can get three or one point anywhere with good officiating I think more is needed to be done on facilities.
Nigeria clubs should please agreed with players what they can pay so the players can plan on what they get.
You don’t agree on $300,000 and pay $150,000. That needs to stop.
What really happened at FIFA U-20 World Cup, Egypt 2009 when some players mysteriously got injured?
Let me start this way that I don’t believe in juju. I recalled coach Samson Siasia told (his assistant) Kalika that I should not play the last friendly against Honduras, that they know my qualities already and have seen me well.
But I don’t know how it happened I was in goal in the game and when I went to pick up a ball, I fell on the turf and I was taken to the hospital and after a series of examination they said nothing was wrong with me, but anytime I touched a ball with that hand it was very painful.
I took it in good faith, maybe God wanted someone else to shine.
Thank you Dele.
You are welcome.