Enyimba FC goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai recently spoke to All Nigeria Soccer about his time with the Super Eagles, his current club, CAF club competitions and his love for late South African reggae icon Lucky Dube.
Afelokhai was recently called up for Nigeria’s games against South African in AFCON qualifier and Uganda in a friendly match as a replacement for fellow goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho who has been out on injury.
He told the publication that it came as a huge surprise for him as he felt that there other goalkeepers who could do the job better than him but he was grateful for the call-up.
”I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that I was called up as a replacement for Uzoho. I first gave thanks to God Almighty because I’m not the only good goalkeeper in Nigeria. I give thanks to the coaches and players as well for receiving me and making me feel belonged to the team,’’ Afelokhai told All Nigeria Soccer.
Afelokhai feels like his call-up as a replacement came at a right time even though he hadn’t been part of the squad’s previous preparations despite having been in good form, and he said he hopes to be part of the AFCON squad in 2019 as he continues to work hard.
”I was not doing badly for Enyimba in the CAF Confederation Cup but I believe it’s just God’s time that I come into the team at this time. It came and I intend doing well anytime I’m invited to the national team. I believe that God who made it possible will continue to protect me and my fans. They should continue praying for me. I hope to be part of the AFCON squad in 2019. I will continue to work hard surely.”
”Nigerian clubs have been close to winning it before Enyimba achieved it but our clubs can still attain that feat with the support of Nigerians and management of the clubs. As Lobi Stars and Enugu Rangers are representing Nigeria in the CAF club competitions, they need the support of the management. They can achieve it if they’re professional and treat the players the way it’s supposed to be because being in a competition you know what it means. That’s why North African teams do well.”
The 30-year-old spoke about former Nigeria goalkeeper; Vincent Enyeama and Arsenal’s Petr Cech as his favourite whom he learned a lot from to improve his goalkeeping skills, with Enyeama having been his mentor too.
”There are a lot of goalkeepers in this country and of course as a goalkeeper we all look up to someone. Vincent Enyeama was my mentor despite having played in the NPFL. I love Petr Cech in Europe. They were goalkeepers that I learned a lot from.”
Afelokhai said it is inevitable to be in good books with fellow teammates and showing respect to the goalkeeping coach as he said lack of respect for the coach doesn’t help any player as it will just destroy their game because they’re not focused.
”I don’t think disobeying your trainer will make you a great keeper. I have also not had issues with my teammates. We respect each other a lot. You need to be humble and learn from your goalkeeper’s trainer. I’ve once been a captain so I lead by example. The goalkeeping position is one you have to bring your head down and learn from those who have been there and done it before you. You improve your skills and gain more confidence.”
”Well, every game brings its own challenges. Of course as a goalkeeper, there are goals you concede that you can’t do anything about. You may be excellent on a day and make 99 saves but one error could ruin all your efforts and make you look stupid. Nobody is perfect but we work hard in trainings so that we can get better. I have played against so many good strikers so I’ll not be able to mention any specific names. ”
The keeper also spoke fondly of his family and stressing the importance of spending of spending quality time with his them as he frequently travels for lengthy amounts of time.; and hopes to spend more time with his children when he eventually retires.
”When I’m not playing, I spend a lot of time with my family. I love my family. They make me happy, they pray for me. We joke together, go out together. Sometimes I sleep in my children’s room. When I retire from the game, I will spend more time with my children because daddy is always traveling. My family members, my extended family that is, supported my choice of career. My parents are alive. My siblings are civil servants. God is using me to be there for them,” Afelokhai concluded.