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Henry Chukwuemeka Onyekuru is becoming the name on the lips of every soccer-loving Nigerian both at home and in the diaspora and of course and the reason not farfetched.

Onyekuru found the back of the net a total of 22 times for KAS Eupen in his first stint in the Belgian top-flight division, leaving him joint top scorer in the league.

The official website of the Nigerian Football Federation, thenff.com caught up with Onyekuru in an exclusive interview anchored by the Assistant Media Officer of the Federation, Ayo Olu-Ibidapo.

Onyekuru spoke about his successful campaign in the Belgian domestic league, how he was able to combine schooling and football, his delight on the call-up to the Super Eagles, reports linking him to Arsenal and his thoughts on the Nations Cup tie against South Africa. Excerpts:

A whole of people are talking about you and of course your exploits in Belgium. Tell us about you and your exploits in Belgium.

I was born and brought up in Lagos Nigeria, I’m from Imo State, I got into the project of Aspire Academy in the year 2011 when I was scouted in Lagos to join the academy in Qatar for the final. So I went there and I succeeded. I was among the team to be in the academy then, so I spent four years and half in the academy, both schooling and footballing.

The first option of the academy was to arrive in Belgium because the academy owns the club in Belgium, KAS Eupen. So I arrived there two years ago when the club were still in the second division and I was with them. We got promoted to the first division, and it was my first time in the first at the top flight division; the season that just passed and I got my chance to play with the team, because in the second division, I wasn’t playing that much because we had a lot of experienced players from Spain, and I got the chance to play and I was in the first eleven and I was playing and got some confidence from the coach and the big players in the team you know; they kept pushing me, giving me advices on how to work because I was the youngest in the team. When I got there, I was just 18 and now I’m in the Super Eagles which I’m playing for. 

A lot of people have likened you to Thierry Henry. How do you feel about this?

Well, yeah, I’m very happy at the moment because Thierry Henry has always been my idol since I was a kid. You know, I love watching him play, and then I used to go through the YouTube to watch most of his games and then and I remember telling the Belgian press that If I have to move, I would move to the Premier League and I want to be like Thierry Henry, so it’s just like a dream come true to me and I’m working towards it at the moment.

You were invited to the camp of the Super Eagles and the next thing you are making the team that will play against South Africa. How would you feel when you line up in front of Nigerians who love football and already appreciating you? 

(Cuts in). Yeah of course, of course, you know it’s a great pleasure for me to be a part of the team representing the country. It is a good feeling and its always the first dream of every young player to represent his country one day, to wear the green shirt, same with your family; they will be happy you know and giving them Joy, so it’s a good feeling I made the team to represent Nigeria in the African qualifier.

The interest from Arsenal and other clubs. How does it make you feel?

Like I said before, it’s a good feeling you know. A club like Arsenal coming for me…it’s is a good feeling; like I said before, it is due to the hard-work I did during training and the games, so yes, it’s a good feeling and I’m waiting and working towards it and we see how it goes after the qualifiers.

Onyekuru scored 24 goals in Belgian top flight
Onyekuru scored 24 goals in Belgian top flight

Finally, Nigerians will certainly want to know what your thoughts are about the South Africa game and the chances of the Super Eagles, considering the fact that we didn’t go to two Nations Cups. What would you have to say to them and what do you want to tell your people back home? What also is the feeling like? How have you been welcomed into the team by the technical crew, the backroom staff and of course, the players that you’ve mingled with?

 

First, the question about Nigeria not going to the African Cup for two years now, it’s football; you know in football, you cannot perceive anything and everything is possible in football, you know. It’s not that we don’t have a good team, we have a good team, but we were not just lucky enough but now I believe with the team spirit and the work of the coaches and staff, we are going to make it down there. And yes, it has been very kind of the staff and the coaches and the senior players I met here in the team; they’ve been showing lots of love to me and taking me as a brother and trying to give me confidence in the field because it’s my first National camp so there has been a lot of encouragement from them and advices and I’m happy to be among them and learn a lot from them- the big players here, the staff and coach. We should just support and pray for the team. We just need the full support of the fans and prayers to back us up and I believe we would come out in flying colours.

*Culled from thenff.com

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