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Joseph Aisa: Nigeria must float league to improve performance in MiniFootball

It is true we failed to win the trophy but I cannot say I am not disappointed

Joseph Vershima Aisa, a member of the team that represented Nigeria in the recently concluded 2020 African MiniFootball Championship, has said the country must as a matter of urgency set up a league to harness the talents that abound in the game. In this interview with Trust Sports, the former Sunshine Stars player also spoke on the performance of Nigeria in 2nd edition of the African MiniFootball Cup in Ibadan and his football career.

 

How satisfied are you with the performance of Nigeria in the just concluded 2020 African MiniFootball Cup of Nations?

It is true we failed to win the trophy but I cannot say I am not disappointed. I can say we did our best because we didn’t have enough preparation. And for many of us, it was our first time in the competition so it was an opportunity for us to learn. It may interest you to know that countries like Egypt and Libya have well organised MiniFootball leagues so they had better preparations. In our opening group match against Libya, we played 0-0. In the second group match with Senegal, we lost 2-3 but bounced back in the last group match to defeat Zambia 3-2 to qualify for the knock-out stage. Unfortunately, in the quarter-finals, we were beaten 2-1 on penalties by Ghana after the regulation time ended 1-1. So we drew one, lost one and won one match but it was not enough to keep us in the tournament. Although we didn’t win the trophy, I am happy that we’ve qualified for the 2021 World Cup which will be staged in Ukraine.

So how did Nigeria manage to qualify for the 2021 World Cup?

The same tournament served as qualifiers for the World Cup. After our matches in the Nations Cup, we walked over Burkina Faso and defeated Zambia 3-2 to pick the World Cup ticket. Zambia too had walked over Somalia.

Having qualified for the World Cup, what do you suggest Nigeria should do to put up an impressive performance in Ukraine?

First we should camp in good time and for a long period to prepare adequately. MiniFootball is not like conventional football. You need enough stamina and physical fitness to do well. Secondly, I believe if we have a functional MiniFootball League in Nigeria, it will help in our preparations for international competition. As a matter of fact, after the tournament in Ibadan, I suggested this to one of the presidents and he said they were already working on it. It will go a long way in contributing to the development of the sport in Nigeria. Now that the tournament has ended, we are all back to our respective clubs. We may come together again when we have a tournament to play. And when we do so, it will be like starting afresh. But if we are playing in a league, we would develop more skills and understanding.

What would you say is the difference between playing MiniFootball and conventional football?

It is almost the same thing but MiniFootball is slightly different because it is more demanding. In MiniFootball, each half lasts for 25 minutes but you play non-stop. There is total concentration. It requires a lot of energy and physical fitness. There is hardly any breathing space. One can relax a bit only when the ball is out of play. In MiniFootball you mustn’t be caught napping.

Contrary to your explanation, many are of the view that the sport is for retired players or those who are in the twilight of their careers. What do you have to say?

I think those who say such things do not know the difference between MiniFootball and Futsal that is popular in Brazil. Fustal is played mostly in the streets by retired football players or those who are on the verge of retiring from active football. I don’t think any retired football player can cope with the physicality in MiniFootball.

How did you get into the Nigerian MiniFootball national team?

I was invited to camp by the coach of the team, Fabian Edaba. I am sure he was following my performances in the Nigerian National League with FRSC FC Abuja. He called to inform me that I should report to camp for the MiniFootball tournament. It was not a stroll in the park but I worked hard to make the final list. That was how I found myself representing Nigeria.

How much have you benefited from your participation in the tournament?

I have gained a lot. I think it has boosted my fitness level. Football is about hard work and fitness. Before I was invited to the camp, I was not as fit as I am at the moment. In our last match, I played the whole duration of the match. I hope to put my present form to good use in conventional football. I am also trusting God for a good offer in the NPFL or abroad.

How did you start your football career?

I started back home with Sir Akpoo Wisdom academy in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State. From Wisdom, I went to play for an amateur Division two side in Cross River State. From there, I moved to Jigawa Stars and then Sunshine Stars. I left Sunshine Stars to play in Zambia for NAPSA Stars. From Zambia, I moved to Aris Limassol FC in Cyprus and FC Zbrojovka Brno in Czech Republic. At the moment, I am playing for FRSC FC Abuja but my eyes are still on Europe.

How do you fancy your chances of playing for the Super Eagles?

It has been my dream and I will keep working towards it. I am happy that MiniFootball has given me the rare opportunity to represent Nigeria. My next target is to put on the green white green for the Super Eagles.

What would you say is your happiest moment as a football player?

Without any doubt, it was when I signed for the club in Czech Republic. Though it was short-lived, it is no doubt memorable because I fulfilled my European dream.

And what would you say is your biggest disappointment so far?.

I will say my biggest disappointment was when I travelled to Cyprus. The same day I did my medicals and was shown round my apartment, I was on the next plane back to Nigeria. There was a disagreement between my agent and the club. It was a huge disappointment for me.

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