*Eyeing African Champions league title this season
He has spent over a decade playing in Sudan and he is not thinking of retirement, Kelechi Osunwa, has won everything in the Sudanese League and he hopes to add the Africa Champions League to his collection this year, he was vital to his team’s exploit
over Rivers United of Port Harcourt in Omdurman. He had a chat with Olayinka Elebute of www.gongnews.net about his sojourn to Sudan.
How has your sojourn in Sudan been?
Well, I thank God for my stay in Sudan. It has been successful to me. I’ve stayed there for over a decade. This is my 12th season in Sudan. It’s been fruitful all through. Am grateful to God for his grace on my life as a person.
What kept you going year in year out as a footballer?
All I can say is being committed to the game. I’m always committed, I like being professional in my job. I take my job first before any other thing. Even before my family. It’s a professional job.
What came into your mind after the draw and you discovered you’re playing Rivers United of Port Harcourt.
Well, I felt like I was playing home away from home. Coming to play in my home soil where I left 12 years ago. When I was playing for Dolphins of Port Harcourt. I still have fresh memories coming back to play in Port Harcourt again the same fans, brothers, friends, it was awesome.
What is the difference playing the Sudanese league and the Nigeria league?
There’s much difference playing the Sudanese league and Nigerian league. Its the same style of football as we have it in Africa to play hard ball. But the difference with playing in Sudan is that they have dominant teams. Like two or three teams that are dominant that wins the league. Unlike in Nigeria where different teams can win the league. In Sudan you can beat your chest that yeah, this team will win the league.
Which is your most memorable honour you’ve won in Sudan and how many medals have you been able to win?
I have won the league 4 times. I won twice with Al-hilal 2005 and 2006. I won twice with Al-Merrihk. I’ve won virtually everything in Sudan. But my only lapses there is not clinching the Africa champions league. We always get close, like semi final. On more than three or four occasions and we ended up losing out. That’s has been my greatest regret not clinching the champions league. But then, I think its football. But I believe its possible we can win it this time around.
Was Sudan your ideal destination for Football
It wasn’t really my ideal place but I had to choose Sudan because they were very serious, they contacted me and they were keen on me. I thought it was a good move for me, rather than playing back home here. Because that same year I won the league and FA cup here with Dolphins. So I think it was the right time to move ahead with my career and I took the step.
Did you ever had the opportunity of playing for the Sudanese national team?
Yes! I was actually part of the 24 man list in 2010 in a trip to South Africa but I couldn’t make it to the finals. Because of some lapses from the federation. Some people talking about me playing with Super Eagles in the LG cup in Libya and Nigeria. And I had been in a couple of friendly against Kenya in Nairobi and Zimbabwe in Abuja. So I think this was why I couldn’t make it to play for them.
How would you compare the fans in Nigeria with those in Sudan?
Well, you know how Port Harcourt is, we don’t really have much fans there but I was overwhelmed with the crowd that came. In the past when we used to play in the Champions league, we only have such fans when we play Champions league but in league games and friendlies you don’t see such crowd. It was amazing to see the whole stadium filled up with people dancing and singing. Well I can’t compare Nigeria to Sudan. Because in Sudan the fans are die hard supporters of football. So, I’m in the return leg, the fans helped us to make the difference.
When does Kelechi Osunwa intend to retire from football?
Well, as long as I’m hale and healthy I’ll keep going. Well, I don’t think I’ve much years left in playing professional football. So when the time comes I’ll let you know.
On a sad note, you played with a fellow Nigerian who passed on five years ago, Endurance Idahor, how do you feel?
It’s actually six years, if you follow me on Facebook you’ll see I just celebrated him. Because I always remember him, we left together. We were team mates in Dolphins before we left. We were very good friends, even till date I still communicate with his wife, his kids, to know how they’re doing. Actually before the kick off of the second leg against Rivers United, I was told by our manager that we were going to have a minute silence for him. But when the game started I did not see anything like that. I think they forgot due to the tension of the match.
How do you welcome Nigerians who have joined you in Al-Merrihk of Sudan?
Its just cool, we’ve this brotherly love. We do things together, make our Nigerian food together, eat together. I let them know about the place, because I’ve been there for a while. I’ve experience about their lifestyle. How they can get along very well.
Finally, I hope you’ll answer this question because players don’t usually do. How much does Kelechi Osunwa earn in Sudan? We hear you’re one of the highest paid.
Laughs….All I can say is that they’re much better in payment than what is obtainable in Nigerian league.
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