What made you want to join MOTD Africa Top Ten?
Oh, good question. I think it’s nice to raise the profile of African players, first of all. They’ve been at the sharp end of professional football for a long time – much longer than most listeners would believe really. The purpose of the show is to make sure the audiences of African football are aware of what’s going on with players, in the big tournaments, in the European leagues.
We want to raise the profile of African football and make sure that the young kids have people to look up to, to aspire to be, and the best way to do that is to make sure that these stories and their history and the facts are being told.
If you could tell us a bit about the programme – what are you most looking forward to about it, and presenting?
I love the arguments with Yaya, in particular! You know, the disagreements about what we think: the best players, best goal-scorers, best midfielders, best goals, most famous moments at AFCON or World Cup moments, players we like and players we don’t think are as good as other people might think they are.
Having that discussion with Yaya and Gaby is great because it’s the kind of stuff we all talk about at home with our friends and family, and at work, in different environments. So for us to get together like this for the first time is great. And football is subjective [so] it’s nice to hear what other people think about the players. And whether they agree with you or not, that’s always fun.
Who in your opinion is the best African player in the Premier League at the moment?
In the Premier League right now? I’m always a little bit… I like to separate players because I think it’s always easy to look at the goalscorers. It’s the hardest thing to do, to score goals. So those names always spring to mind. So you know, people will say Mo Salah, because he’s the most famous African player arguably in the world right now. And he’s been the best goal scorer for the last 5 to 6 years. So I suppose, without going into detail, he’s the one I think who is holding the beacon the highest, and shining it the brightest right now.
What is the highlight of your career?
Highlights? I’d say making my debut for Nigeria in AFCON 1994 was a highlight, but in a way it was more for my Dad, in that I think he felt it more than me. I think he really cherished that moment more; you know, the thought that his son played international football. So that was a very proud moment for him, and for me as well. It was nice to see that he was very happy. And he sort of basked in the glory to the end of his days!
On a personal level, I suppose being the first player to score 4 goals in a Premier League game, back in 93, when I was at Norwich. That was the first time that happened. It was at Goodison park, and I’m a Liverpool fan so that was great. And maybe scoring the first goal in European football for Norwich as well, which is a milestone that no-one else can ever achieve. If I had to choose one, probably the 4 goals. Yeah, that was very satisfying.
And one last question, what advice do you have for aspiring players in Africa?
Follow your dream. It’s much easier for them now to be able to follow it because the pathways are greater and there are many more than when I was growing up, although I was raised here [in the UK]. So don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t do something. Because as I said, there are many opportunities. Lots of African kids get pushed down the route of “education, education, education”, more so because that’s seen as the way out, to a better life. But sport now – lots of sports, but football in particular – there are so many ways that they can find a better life for themselves. So yes, always believe in yourself. And that goes a long way.