Former NPFL title wining star, Azeez Shobowale has revealed that sudanese football authority are luring him to play for the senior national team. Shobowale who currently plies his trade for Al-Hilal Omdurman of Sudan is painting the sudanese league with his pacy and precise left-footed soccer skills. The 26-year old in an exclusive chat with PageOne.ng reveals how Sudan has been home away from home. Azeez Shobowale is one of Nigeria’s bright talents who have had a fair share of the bitter-sweet experience in the Nigerian football league. Fondly called Amunike, Azeez shares his moments and thoughts after two eventful stints.
What has been the experience playing in Sudan?
I can say that Sudan has been fair me. When I arrived, I was well received and today I can say that the country is like home for me. That is not to say that there are no barriers with the major one being language. Playing alongside footballers from a other countries and regions where English is not the official language, it’s tough. These are Arabians not a matter of Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa who can understand you a bit. I will say in all, one has to be professional enough and understand the terrain, then earn your living.
How will you rate your relationship with other Nigerian players in the country playing in the Sudanese league?
Although we are all in Sudan to work, but when we see each other we relate well. We greet as Nigerian brothers and then move on. We may not be friends but we sure anytime we meet we relate like brothers.
You played for a number of clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League, can you tell us about your best moment?
Obviously, my best moment was when I won the league title with Kano pillars in 2014. It was in the season we were banished from our home due to fans issues. We lost a game in Kano and there was a problem. In Kaduna our new home, we scored a lone goal in the dying minute of the game, I can never forget. Playing against a team like Enyimba at a neutral ground was a big deal for us, a decider if we were going to win the league, but we did it.
Please also share those times you regards as worst experiences in the NPFL
Although I do not like talking about these things but they are there at our faces. Traveling experience for footballer in the Nigerian league system is very bad. You know, when you have a game away, and you have to travel about 7 hours or more by road to arrive at the venue a few hours before the game and you still have to play. After the match, then we also return to our base on the same day. It was terrible. In Sudan here, any journey over four hours, the team travels by air. The players are happy and are ready to deliver without stress. I think things are actually getting better in Nigeria now, few teams that can afford to travel by air on some occasions now do so.
You have played in the Sudanese league for over two seasons now, what will you say is the major difference compared with the NPFL?
I strongly feel that back home in Nigeria we have better players who are raw football talents. Our league in Nigeria is very competitive; our players are matured and can compete anywhere. Look at the league, it’s not always certain who will win it every year. The motivation aspect is where the difference lies. I will say Sudan is way ahead in this area. Every footballer or worker wants to be well paid; we sometimes go where the money is and proper welfare package. Sudan is a small country but the way things are organized is top-notch. The clubs take good care of their players well, if the standard can be raised in Nigeria, trust me; most of our player will have no course to want to leave the country. In Nigeria some players still earn less than USD500, look at that for a player with family, and lots of bills to pay at the end of the day.
Another area is the facilities. What clubs here have in place, I’m sorry to say you may not find it in Nigeria.
Can you tell us about your most memorable moments in Sudan?
I could remember a game against Al-Merrikh. We needed a win while they needed to draw to also claim the title. I scored a goal in the match and we ended up winning 2-0. It was a great experience for me in the 2015/2016 season. Forgetting that moment in my career is just impossible, I still see that moment and I am grateful to God.
What is it Azeez Shobowale does not like about the country (Sudan)?
Can I really lay hold on it for now? I think the things I don’t like will have to wait. I’m in Sudan to play football as a profession and that is all I have always focused on. I keep my head down and concentrate on the reason why I’m in the country; I really do not care about some negatives.
Have you been contacted by Sudanese authorities to represent the country at senior national team level?
When it comes to issues like this, you tend to hear a lot of stories. What I can say now is that nothing is official at the moment although I was informed by the club management that the country would like to have me play for the senior national team. The question then would be what my take is at the time, let’s wait and see how things evolve.
Do you see yourself playing in the Super Eagles anytime soon?
(Laughs)… well may be for the county where I play, I think the chances are a bit slim. If I get the call up to play for the Eagles, why not? Every Nigerian footballer would fancy a chance to represent his fatherland.
Let’s talk about the World Cup. Nigeria has been drawn against Argentina, Croatia and Iceland, do you think the Eagles have a chance?
I believe the Super Eagles will do well in the world cup. If you look at the present crop of players, they play in Europe and understand what the challenge is at that level. We know Argentina and what threat they pose. We must take Croatia seriously as they have good players who are also doing well in their clubs. So our approach to the games should be to take on any opponent regardless.