Exclusive: Sani Emmanuel Q&A
1 August 2011
Football is my life, says Flying Eagles striker Sani Emmanuel.
“My father did not support me when I started playing football. In fact I was not even living with my parents. I was actually leaving with friends because we were very poor. I shunned school for football because that was the only thing after my heart and the only thing that brought me success and happiness,” he revealed to MTNFootball.com.
“I had no other thing in my heart other than to play football. The other sport I love is table tennis. I would have been a successful table tennis player, if not for football.
“But my life actually changed for the better when the man of God and my father in the Lord, Prophet T.B Joshua, saw me and showed interest in me and since then he has propelled me to where I am today.
“I will forever be grateful to him. He was instrumental to all the trials I attended before I and my friend Onazi (Ogenyi) now got a contract with SS Lazio of Italy.”
One of the top stars of the 2009 FIFA U17 World Cup now looks at the U20 World Cup in Colombia.
MTNFootball.com: You did not feature at the last Africa Youth Championship in South Africa. What has been happening to Sani Emmanuel since the last FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria in 2009?
Sani Emmanuel: After the last U-17 World Cup God has been faithful and everything has been good. I have been training and working hard. I have been to several trials so that I can get a team to start my football career.
By the grace of God I was able to go to SS Lazio in Italy in the company of my friend Onazi Ogenyi and they have just offered us a contract that I would say is very good for our age and career. We have since commenced training with the club.
On the Africa Youth Championship that took place in South Africa, we got the invitation very late as at the time we even had important matches to play. I was eager to play in the tournament but it wasn’t possible so I would say I really missed the tournament and the chance of become a champion too.
Which match would you consider as the toughest for Nigeria at the Africa Youth Championship, which you followed on television from your base in Italy?
Actually I didn’t have the opportunity to watch all the matches but I was able to watch the first and the final match involving our team. I believe the final was a good game for us because we played well and won. Now we have to work harder to achieve our ambition of winning the World Cup in Colombia.
Are you so sure that the Flying Eagles can win the World Cup?
Yes. After a very good preparation, hard work and determination from the entire team I believe with quality of players in the team, we stand a good chance.
How do you fancy your chances in the starting XI of coach John Obuh in Colombia?
I have been training very hard to be in good shape and very fit for the tournament and by the grace of God I won’t disappoint. I also sincerely pray that we win the cup this time around and I am ready to sacrifice anything to help the team achieve this.
Nigerians should expect that we are going to do well in Colombia. They too should not stop praying for us because prayer is the key to success. With their prayers and support I believe things would definitely work out for us.
We as players have resolved to work very hard to make sure we bring home the trophy.
How did you join Lazio and what are the terms of your contract?
I have duly signed for SS Lazio but the major contract begin this new season that we are about to enter now. I can say everything is fine.
How many Nigerians are at Lazio?
We are four and only Ayodele Makinwa was playing in the first team. He has now gone on loan so we are three left in the club while the third person is Emeka. But with the way things are going now I believe at least two of us will graduate to the first team by the new season.
Tell us the places you have had trials before Lazio finally signed you?
I have had trials at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur of England, Young Boys of Switzerland and Panathinaikos in Greece.
Why did it take you so long to get a club in Europe despite being one of the top stars at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup hosted by Nigeria?
Actually the man of God (Prophet T.B Joshua) who has been helping us from the beginning preferred us to train and acquire experience with the big clubs in Europe.
That was why he has been sponsoring me and Onazi not for tials to secure a club but to train with the best and big players in the world. He wanted us to experience how the game is played in Europe first before finally joining a club there. Finally we have signed for Lazio.
Then what are your chances of breaking into the first team of Lazio now?
I hope by the grace of God this new season. We are waiting for the (Lazio) coach now to name his first team squad. The good thing is that I and Onazi have been training with the first team. I sincerely hope we make the grade at the end of the day.
How will you describe the Italian league with the few months you have stayed in Italy?
It’s a very good league but very tough, but we are training very hard to perform well for Lazio in the league.
It was nice talking to you Emmanuel.
The pleasure is mine.