Daniel Bameyi discusses his biggest influence, how Nigeria managed to defeat Argentina in Argentina and his belief they will win this FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Daniel Bameyi is the youngest captain at Argentina 2023.
He believes the Flying Eagles will win the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The 17-year-old raves about Nigerians’ passion for football.
Bameyi made his senior international debut at only 16, and is now the youngest captain and smallest centre-back at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023™. He is, like Cannavaro in Germany, making a mockery of the size-matters theory when it comes to defending. Beneath Cerro Mercedario, one of the highest peaks in the Andes on Wednesday, he was insurmountable as the Flying Eagles pulled off a nation-silencing upset of the hosts, record six-time champions and title favourites.
FIFA caught up with Bameyi to discuss that result, his belief Nigeria can emerge with gold, his unlikely idol and the passion for football in his homeland.
FIFA: Can you tell us about growing up in Nigeria and how you got into football?
Daniel Bameyi: As you’re growing up, there are so many challenges. Back there in Nigeria things haven’t been that easy. But this is part of us. And growing up I always felt this love for football. Anytime I wasn’t playing football, I just wanted to be involved, to be there watching, to feel the joy.
Which players have had the biggest influence on your career?
I’m only 17. When I was growing up, my coach – I don’t know how he did get a video of Cannavaro – but he played it for me and said, ‘Hey, boy, sit down and watch’. I’m a defender, I like to defend. I can play from the centre, from right-back, from midfield. So he’d just go and get me old videos of Cannavaro, when he was playing in Italy, and say, ‘This is the kind of style of football you [should] play. You should be looking up to this person. I saw old clips, the ability and spirit he had in the team. Cannavaro had a huge influence on me.
How intimidating was it playing Argentina in Argentina with all that noise?
Wow, wow, wow, wow. It was a great game, I must say. It’s a great national team we’re talking about, a very amazing team. They are very complete. This team is very special. If you watch the game, they made us suffer. We did suffer a lot in the game, but we know this Nigeria spirit. The team wasn’t intimidated because we have been in this situation before. We were playing in Egypt against the hosts, and we came out successfully (Nigeria won 1-0 in Cairo at the U-20 AFCON in February). So we were ready for everything. We knew we were going to play against everything, against the hosts, and at the end of the day we are happy we came out victorious.
How did you feel when the final whistle sounded?
Wow, wow. I was feeling like, ‘We made it, we did it’. But this was just [the first game] of the knockout stage. We still have three other games to play. We had to enjoy it for the moment, but then focus on the next game we have to play.
Next up is Korea Republic. What do you think of them as a team?
First of all, there is no small team in the World Cup. Every team in this competition is good. You must respect every team. Then any team in the knockout stage if obviously very good. I think the Koreans are a very good team. They have beaten other very good teams. I think they have very good players. We have a lot of respect for them.
How proud are your family of you?
They are very proud. They feel very blessed. They say a very big thank you to FIFA and the Nigerian nation as a whole. They are very happy.
Do you believe Nigeria will win this FIFA U-20 World Cup?
Yeah. This is football, everything can happen, any team is beatable. As my coach would say, we just have to be disciplined, dedicated, do our job, concentrate. Let’s see how it goes, but I believe in this team. We can do it.
What would the title mean to the people of Nigeria?
Wow, it would go a long way because there are so many kids out there, who started where we started, and are looking up to us. It would go a long way. I would also give hope to those who are coming from the streets. It would make us proud.
Can you describe the passion Nigerians have for football?
Wow, wow, it’s so exceptional. We have so many numbers of talents out there in Nigeria. If you are there, you will see!
What do you want to achieve in your career?
I just want to be great in this profession. I just want to achieve, win trophies, live a good life. Above all, I want to be disciplined, I want to unite the world with football. As FIFA always says, football unites the world, so I want to unite the world, to being peace and loving memories to the world.