Erstwhile Super Eagles goaltender Ike Shorunmu is a name that rings bells. Having played for defunct Stationery Stores of Lagos and IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan, there were believes that his clubs believed in fetish powers to remain on top.
In fact, there were talks during his active playing days that players were made to sleep at the cemetery or even visit witch doctors to have extra strength to face opponents.
But Shorunmu in this interview with BOLAJI OKUNOLA, insists that such claims were mere fallacies and says he had never visited a native or witch doctor to gain extra reflexes while in goal.
He also speaks about the difficulties he encountered during his hey days in the Nigeria football national team, secrets behind his recent chieftaincy title, perception on goalkeeper Maduka Okoye’s move to English Premier League outfit, Watford, the difference between the Super Eagles of yester years and the present generation and reveals his most dreaded attacker.
The Nigeria Super Eagles are on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, as an ex-international what are the lapses in technicality you’ve observed so far?
The Super Eagles are known to be a lovely team and everyone around the world love to see play them including me, but as per your question, I won’t love to give answer to that because I don’t love talking about the technicality aspect of the team. All I have to say is to encourage the boys for the crucial time they are about to witness. A FIFA World Cup qualifying series is not a child’s play and I won’t love to distract the team with my perception.
With the 2021 African Cup of Nation’s around the corner, do you think the team is in the right shape to soar in Cameroon come January next year?
Yes. AFCON is another outing capable of testing the team’s might but as for me, I believe the team will perform excellently well in the forthcoming AFCON.
I say this because we have capable players at the moment. The likes of Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo and a host of others are all in good shapes. We have good legs at the moment and I think we’re really good to go. We have capable hands at the moment.
Looking at the goalkeeping department of the team, as a former goalkeeper trainer, do you think the trio of Daniel Akpeyi, Maduka Okoye and Francis Uzoho are the best?
Well, as for me, the trio have done the best they could for their father land and I don’t think am in the right frame of mind to criticize or judge their performances. I want to believe coach Gernot Rohr knows better about this. I’ve also tried my best as a goalkeeper and a goalkeeper trainer of the national team and I’ve left for others to continue from where I stopped. Therefore, the coach knows better about the present situation in that department.
Looking at goalkeeper Maduka Okoye’s move to English Premier League side, Watford, do you think he is ripe to feature in such great league?
I’m very happy for him. His move to an English Premier League outfit came at the perfect time.
He is billed to join the team in January and I believe that will prime him for other forthcoming challenges. Aside that, he has done well by featuring regularly with his present club in Holland. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope he makes us proud while we wish him good luck.
Now to your hey days as a goalkeeper, which striker did you dread the most?
Smiles… My most feared striker remains Gabriel Batistuta. I tagged him a beast because of his style of play. Having had an encounter with him during the group opener of the 2002 FIFA World Cup hosted in Korea/Japan. I had stood between the stick against the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Erik Larson and host of other world deadly strikers but I think the Argentine Batistuta remains the best.
Back then, standing as the number one goalkeeper in a populated country of over one-hundred and forty million people, were you ever involved in any sort of ritual?
NEVER! I’m a diehard Muslim. I have never visited someone for any fetish reason. All I do is to pray in an Islamic way and listen to soft music few minutes before the kickoff of any game. That’s all I do and my team mates knows that. I thank God for where I am today.
You were recently bestowed with a Chieftaincy title, does the traditional rites involved not in averse to your religion?
Capital No! I insist that I have never been involved in such acts. Having gotten a Chieftaincy title doesn’t classify as one a fetish person and all I aim at is to do my best.
It was rumoured that at club side football and even the national team, you and your teams were said to have stayed overnight at the cemetery to fortify yourselves against opponents?
Frowns! That’s false rumour. And if there is anyone that has taken me there, he should come out and point the accusing finger.
Some of your colleagues once admitted storming the Eagles camp and dressing room with charms, did you witness any of this?
Well, I can say no because I’ve never caught any of my teammates in such act. All we do is to go to the field of play and win games for the happiness of soccer loving Nigerians. And we all still maintain our friendship after retirement.
Lastly, if you’re been call upon to return to the Super Eagles as goalkeeper trainer, will you accept such offer from the NFF?
Allah will decide that. As for now, I can’t predict what happens in the nearest future. Thanks.