Falcons highly motivated to qualify for Paris Olympics – Kanu


US-based in-form Super Falcons striker Uchenna Kanu, in this interview, tells ’TANA AIYEJINA the record African champions are super charged for the doubleheader Olympics qualifier against eternal rivals Banyana Banyana,  her blistering form in the NWSL and more

How are you looking forward to Friday’s (today) encounter against archrivals Banyana Banyana?

I’m really excited ahead of Friday’s game and hopefully it’s going to be a great game for us. However, I wish we had more time to train together as a group, with everyone coming from far distances and very short window for rest and training. But I trust my girls, we’ve always found a way to push through the stress and use it as motivation. I believe we are going to put up a match-winning performance on Friday (today).

The South Africans have complained about the Abuja weather ahead of the match. How conducive is it?

The weather is harsh, for sure, but we don’t have any excuse but to adapt as quickly as we can. Some of us are used to the heat but the most important thing is getting the most out of the short time we have when it comes to training and practicing our tactics for Friday (today).

You were part of the squad that lost to the South Africans at the 2022 WAFCON. Do you think this is time for revenge?

I wouldn’t call it revenge. However, we are prepared and will come out looking much better than our last encounter with them. Again, the girls are in form and ready to make Nigerians proud as always. We will do our best to win this game.

Falcons last played at the Olympics in 2008. Is this a motivation for the team to win?

Absolutely! I personally haven’t been to the Olympics before and I’m super excited and looking forward to making a positive impact. I believe my teammates understand how imperative these games (first and second legs) are, so, we don’t really have much a choice but to qualify.

You are in superb form in the new NWSL season with two goals in three matches. How are you hoping to continue with this form on Friday?

Yes! I’m super proud of myself for achieving that. It means so much for me and my career and I’m grateful. Again, I’m excited with the opportunity to participate in the Olympics for the first time and I will be approaching the game with everything.

Banyana have gradually risen to become the best side in Africa. Do you think the Falcons have what it takes to retain their top soon?

Yes, the Super Falcons have always been the best side in Africa and we will continue to work hard to maintain that position.

Falcons are always a happy side, singing and dancing before and after games. Is this a motivation for the team?

I think so. Mostly when we sing, it’s always praise and gospel songs before games because we kind of like to pray, you know, it’s like our culture. Right from Nigeria, it’s always been like that. When we play a game, it’s always important that we pray and praise God and just get our spirits lifted and high.  So, it’s always been our tradition as a group and as individuals. We’ve always done that, right from our youth team days and it’s a part of us now, we do it in every game, it doesn’t matter who we play.  It’s very much part of our pre-game routine.

Can you remember your Falcons debut and what it felt like?

My debut was in the WAFU tournament in Ivory Coast in May 2019. I was coming from school and  I joined the team in Ivory Coast for the tournament. I remember scoring an equaliser in the semi-final game against Ivory Coast.  And the game ended in a penalty shootout and we won. I remember scoring like a bunch of goals that made the coach put me on the (2019) World Cup list. I remember featuring for the first time in the World Cup.  It was really cool.  I got minutes and I was really excited.

What do you do before every game and are you going to do it against Banyana?

Obviously I will. When I wake up on game day I say my prayers, play songs, get breakfast. Let’s say we have an away game and we travel, then I’ll be with my teammates. So, we’ll take a walk and get coffee, chill. I talk to my family, but the most important thing that I do for the game would be talking to my mum. I call my mum to get her blessings and have her pray for me over the phone before I clean up.  That’s my game day thing.

What are the best moments of your club career?

I would say playing collegiate league in the US. I played in the WTSL, a summer league in the US. During summer breaks, we played in that league to stay fit before we resumed school. It was a really cool experience for me because I had fun with my teammates and we won the trophy,  we won the whole tournament. And I also scored a bunch of goals in the United States.  I scored a lot of goals for my school and I won a bunch of awards: Player of The Year, Player of The month and Player of The Tournament. My biggest one in college was having a record 159 goals for both the men and women’s division.  I was the highest goals scorer in college, so that’s like my biggest achievement in college. Also, I have a day, November 18, dedicated to me for setting that record.