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Thomas Zenke: Nasarawa Utd motivated enough to beat Generation Foot

Former junior international and Nasarawa United winger, Thomas Zenke is confident his team will record a convincing win over visiting Generation Foot of Senegal in…

Former junior international and Nasarawa United winger, Thomas Zenke is confident his team will record a convincing win over visiting Generation Foot of Senegal in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup first round match. He said the ‘solid miners’ are highly motivated to beat their opponents.

How did you start your football career?
I started my football career in a football academy in Kaduna. I started very early. I followed in the footsteps of my elder brother Simon Zenke who is presently playing in Turkey. Although we did not start at the same time, it was within the same period.
Did you get the support of your parents when you started?
No my parents were highly against me playing football. They wanted us to go to school but when I insisted on playing football, they had no choice but to allow me play the game. Later on they supported and encouraged me to play.
Why did you choose football?
I enjoy playing football and I don’t think any other sport would have given me the satisfaction I derive from playing football. In fact in my neighbourhood where we grew up in Kaduna, almost all the boys played football. It is for this reason that Kaduna has produced some of the best football players in Nigeria.
When you started, did you believe you will play at the professional level?
To be honest with you I was playing football for fun. I never knew I would get to this level. All we wanted to do was to catch fun because as kids we never knew there is so much money in football. However, all that has changed. I am now convinced that I can become a famous football player and also make some money.
Who was your role model when you started?
I started as a right full back so my role model then was Emmanuel Eboue the former player of Arsenal. However, I have changed position and now play as a winger. So my role model is David Villa of Spain. I learn a lot from him and I am working hard to play like him. I am also hoping that one day I will be someone else’s role model.
How much support have you received from your elder brother, Simon?
He has been so supportive. He gives me all the encouragement that I need to succeed. Early this year, he alone sponsored my trials in Malta. What else can an elder brother do to support his younger brother? I appreciate him.
Since turning professional, how many clubs have you played for?
So far, I have played for three clubs namely Abubakar Bukola Sarki FC in Ilorin, Enyimba FC of Aba and now Nasarawa United. I played for Enyimba in 2014 in the CAF Champions League but we did not go far so last year I moved over to Nasarawa United. Although I always had offers, I am not the kind of player that likes to move for moving sake.
What is your ambition in Nasarawa United?
It may interest you to know that I do not have a personal ambition. In Nasarawa United we are like a family and we believe in team work. We are working as a team and I believe that we are going to do well in the CAF Confederation Cup and also the domestic league. We took the league by storm last season and we are hoping to maintain our performance so that it will not look as if we performed well by accident.
So how are you looking forward to your Confederation Cup match against Generation Foot of Senegal on Sunday?
We are not going to settle for anything less than victory over Generation Foot. We are not going to only win but win convincingly. If we can win the first leg by lets say three goals to nil, we would surely be more confident going into the return leg. But this is not to say we are going to underrate our opponents.
Do you have any vital information about your opponents?
Of course our coach has received some useful tips about our opponent which he has since shared with us. We have been made to understand that it was last year that they joined the first division in their league but this season, they are yet to lose a single match. They have won the four matches they have played so far. This means they are a good side.
How is Nasarawa United going to handle such a motivated side?
As much as we are going to respect our opponents, I don’t think they will escape defeat in our hands. Victory over them is not negotiable. My confidence stems from the fact that we have some of the best players in the domestic league in our team and most of us have tasted international football. I do not want to mention names but I can assure you that we have the team that can go far in this competition.
How motivated is Nasarawa United going into this competition?
I can say we are highly motivated. The state government and the management of the club have been doing their best so we are also willing to reciprocate their gesture with good results. Although this year we are yet to discuss the issue of our welfare, I do not envisage any problem. For now, we are concentrating on doing well in the continent and the domestic league.
What is your assessment of the Nigerian Premier League?
Honestly, I can see signs of improvement. The organisation last year was a great improvement on what we used to have. There was also improvement in the area of security at match venues as well as officiating. Remember we won some away matches even in the second stanza of the league and this is unprecedented.
Which areas would you want the LMC to improve on?
I will be very happy if the LMC will pay more attention to players’ welfare. Clubs should be made to honour their contracts with players. A situation where clubs owe their players for several months is not good. It kills the morale of the players. It is for this reason that every player wants to go abroad. This is dragging our league backward.
What was Nasarawa United’s most difficult match last season?
We played two home matches which proved really difficult for us. Our home games against Warri Wolves and Enyimba FC were the most difficult. We had to dig deep to get results even as we played in front of our teeming fans.
What was Nasarawa’s most memorable moment?
Without doubt I will tell you our away victories against Kano Pillars and FC Ifeanyi Ubah were the most memorable. Nobody gave us a chance against Pillars but we were able to end their home invincibility. I will say that victory bolstered our confidence.
Who is your most difficult opponent in the league?
Chinedu Udoji, my former captain in Enyimba is the most difficult opponent I have faced in the league. He is always difficult to beat and when you come against him be prepared for the worst. Well, it takes sense to beat such rugged defenders.
Have you ever played for the national team?
I was a member of the 2007 Golden Eaglets under late coach Yemi Tella. Although I played in the qualifiers, I did not make the team to the World Cup and I was badly hurt. I felt so disappointed that I contemplated quitting football. I thank some of the elderly people who encouraged me to keep playing.
How soon do you think you will play for Nigeria again?
I still have what it takes to play for Nigeria but you know it is not easy to play for this country. Most times it is not about one’s abilities but several other factors. I have not been privileged to represent Nigeria again but I know that if I keep working hard, one day I will get my chance again.
Talking about the national team, most people have blamed Home-based Eagles disappointment in Rwanda on the domestic league. Do you agree with such assertion?
I don’t agree. Nigerian league is one of the best in Africa so nobody should blame the defeat of the Eagles on the local league. I think some of the best players in the league did not make the team to Rwanda. For instance I believed that with my current form, I would be invited to fight for shirt in the team but I was not given a chance. There are many of us who deserved to be in that team.
As a player, do you have any superstitious beliefs?
I am a practising Christian and I believe in the supremacy of God. So I do not partake in any superstitious beliefs. I know that prayer is the master key and it is the only way to reach God.
How do you relax when you are not playing football?
When I am not playing, I listen to music. I like music a lot. I don’t hang out much so once I am in my room, I play the kind of music that will lure me to sleep.
Do you have any nick-name?
Like I told you earlier on, when I started playing, my role model was Emmanuel Eboue so my mates still call me Eboue.
What is your favourite food?
I like eating rice and plantain. As a football player, I try to avoid eating heavy food like pounded yam. In the area of food, I don’t think I am a good Tiv man because I don’t eat pounded yam always.

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