Chidera Ejuke: Nigeria did not have a voodoo at the Africa Cup. But that's not the reason we lost
Forward Chidera Ejuke arrived at the Fonbet training camp in Campoamor late last night, and today he has worked in group without any restrictions.
I DON'T KNOW WHY I DIDN'T PLAY WITH TUNISIA. THE COACHES DIDN'T EXPLAIN ANYTHING
— Chidi, welcome to Campoamor! How do you feel?
— I am very glad to be back in the team, to meet all the guys. I realized that everything was fine with them after the first training session, they are already in good shape. I look forward to serious work, we need to prepare as best as we can for the second part of the season.
— Did you get here OK?
— Yes, I had a short stop in Barcelona on my way from Africa, I had a little rest for a couple of days and flew to Alicante, from where I took the standard route to Campoamor.
— Was the first training with the team difficult?
— It was absolutely fine. I immediately got into the group —I have good physical condition now, although the rest of the guys are still a little ahead, because they train longer. But I expect to catch up with them in a couple of days.
— The guys immediately started asking you about the Africa Cup. What did you tell them?
— Everyone was interested in how we played there, how we lost to Tunisia in the 1/8 finals. Of course, it was very disappointing, because we have good players, we did the group stage perfectly. We hoped for more, but our time will come.
— So what happened there? Yes, there was a penalty, but you missed the decisive goal even before that…
— I did not play myself — you can, of course, judge from the outside, but those who were on the field have a weightier opinion. The Tunisians did a little more to win than we did. The team continued to create chances after the red card but did not use them. The tide turned against us.
— Why did not you actually play?
— Good question. I don't know myself, to be honest.
— So there was no injury or other health problems?
— None at all. But I was not included in the lineup for the game, and I was very surprised by this. No one explained anything, there was no conversation with the coaches. OK, I understand that not everyone can get into the lineup, but I was one hundred percent sure that I would be there. It's a strange situation, I just had to accept it, that's the coach's decision.
— It was discussed in our country that this Africa Cup is not like the previous ones: a lot of matches without goals scored or ended with a score 1-0, problems due to coronavirus, a wing-back as a goalkeeper in one team…
— Yes, in general, the tournament is really different from the previous ones. Many national teams played too cautiously, did not want to miss first, attacked little. But at the same time, football can still be called good in quality. The situation with the defender of the Comoros, who got into the goal in the game against Cameroon, was really discussed a lot. There were many cases of coronavirus in different teams, it's kind of crazy, I don't know what exactly happened there and why. But now the teams in the playoffs are already playing with more or less optimal lineups, these outbreaks are already behind.
— Tell us, how is Ahmed Musa? It will be interesting for the Army Men fans.
— Everything is fine with Ahmed, he is now the captain of our national team, but he does not always play either. Musa is our leader, he is capable of self-sacrifice for the sake of the team. The coach sees it this way: first one comes out, then the other.
— And the head coach of Nigeria is Augustine Eguavoen. Did you know that he was supposed to be in PFC CSKA in 1997, but eventually moved to another Moscow club, Torpedo?
— Wow! Probably, the fans were very surprised. A curious fact, I didn't know about it.
AKINFEEV CALLED ME A SHAMAN? I DON'T BELIEVE IN THEM
— Today there was a funny moment at training: you did a corner kick, and our newcomer, Yusuf, incredibly scored with his head in his own goal.
— It was very funny. The heat at that moment was decent, everyone understood that it was impossible to lose — the coaches said that the losing team pays for the winners' dinner at the restaurant (laughs). I didn't even understand how it happened: I just spun the ball, and Yusuf cut it into the corner.
— It came to a penalty shootout in the end, you were accurate, but your team lost...
— Because our goal that we scored before was not counted. Well, nothing can be done now (smiles).
— Did you hear what Igor Akinfeev shouted to you right after that episode with Yusuf?
— No, to be honest.
— He called you a shaman, hinting at witchcraft.
— Ah, that's the thing. I arrived and strange things started happening? (laughs). Then this episode is even more funny than I thought. All these jokes… It's great to be here (smiles).
— Meanwhile, our captain touched on an interesting topic. There are a lot of articles in media about African shamans who perform magical rituals and allegedly can influence the results of matches, whole books have been written about them. Let's be honest: was there a shaman in the Nigeria national team at this Africa Cup?
— No, there was no shaman.
— So that's why you lost.
— (Laughs) Well, no, I don't think so. I am sure that the reasons for the defeat are different, they are purely football.
— Do all these beliefs exist in Nigeria now?
— I have heard about such things more than once, it is being discussed. But I have never seen anything like this myself, I have not encountered shamans in teams. We call it voodoo, some people may believe in it, some do not. Personally, I very, very much doubt that all this works.
— I'm a Christian. I don't believe in voodoo.
— Our national team was winning during the match against the Nigerians 4-0 by the 60th minute at the World Youth Championship in 1989, and eventually lost on penalties. How - no one still understands. But one of the participants of the match, Sergey Kiryanov, later recalled in an interview: "Before the game, shaman walked around the field. Wearing a mask with horns and a "peace pipe". He was smoking something, howling, dancing, ringing bells. He passed at one goal, then at the other. At first we were ironic, but after the match it all came back to me. It turned out that the Nigeria national team came to the championship with its shaman. And as a result, it reached the final. The shaman cast a spell. I have no other explanation for what happened then."
— Wow. (Chidi is thinking about what he has heard. - Ed.). Very strange things. But I'll tell you what: everything is in our heads. Football players see that some incomprehensible people in incomprehensible outfits are doing some incomprehensible actions. But in fact, they don't do anything supernatural. But your brain sends you signals: "Look what they're doing." You get hung up on it and lose concentration, you start to believe in something otherworldly. It's just a good psychological move to confuse the opponent — mind games. Yes, probably these "shamans" really walked around the field then, but I absolutely do not believe for a second that they could influence anything.
Football is an unpredictable game. Who would have thought that Barcelona would beat PSG after 0-4 in the first match? This is PSG, not a yard team. But they conceded six goals. Or take Liverpool and the same Barcelona — 0-3, 4-0. Liverpool and Milan in 2005.
— PFC CSKA was winning that Liverpool a couple of months later until the 82nd minute in n the UEFA Super Cup, when the Dutch referee magically did not notice the obvious hand play of the opponents' striker…
— (Smiles) Mistakes — yes, this happens all the time. Football is played by real people, and they themselves directly influence what happens on the field. And voodoos have nothing to do with it.