Just before Covid 19 halted Football, Daniel Akpeyi was having the season of his life out there in South Africa, the Kaizer Chiefs shot stopper was in top form, making saves after Saves in crucial games. Most notable was his man of the match Performance in the Soweto derby.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria goalie in an interview with Nationaldaily.ng talked about his growth in South Africa and his plans for future.
The Nigerian who most Nigerians only focus on his blunders with the Super Eagles of Nigeria tells Timothy Dehinbo in this interview how the South Africans cherish him.
Here, Excerpts after Interview Cover
Firstly, how have you been keeping up as a player and having personal trainings during this period of COVID-19 lockdown?
Akpeyi: Well, for me, it’s actually not been easy. But what can one do? We can only adjust to the system for now. I look forward to having things come back to normal, so that we can do what we know how to do best.
Well, we’ve been training collectively as a team. And personally, I’ve been training as well during the days. I have more energy to do some other things.
I just try to walk out more, and generally with the team, thanks to the technical crew, they actually created a zoom session for cybertraining. And we will be doing so about training as a team to try as much as possible to keep fit as much as we can before the league resumes again.
Your team Kaizer Chiefs, lead the ABSA premiership By 4 points, with this, if the League returns and doesn’t get called
Do you think your team can maintain the top spot and win the league?
Akpeyi: Concerning the team being on top and leading with four points.
Every member of the team has fought so hard to keep the team in this position. And I’m sure that we all look forward to ending the season being on top. We won’t want to drop any point.
But again, it’s not going to be easy. But I sure believe that that’s the more reason why we’re working so hard to make sure that we remain on top when the league comes back, making sure that we retain the top position till the end of the season.
And Kudos must go to every single member of the players and technical crew for actually putting so much, to make sure that the team stays at the top.
You’ve had a fantastic season so far with Kaizer Chiefs , are you planning to leave soon if good offers from Europe comes?
Akpeyi: Well, the dream of every player, or let me just say the dream of some African players is to actually play in Europe, where football was being invented.
So if I have the opportunity, yes I will, when the opportunity comes, why not? I would like to finish my career in Europe.
There are possibilities that it can happen and I look forward to it.
How do you see the competition between yourself and Itumeleng Khune? And do you guys learn from each other?
Akpeyi: Frankly speaking, it has been a hell of a competition between us in the goalkeeping department, because a lot of us have a lot to offer.
But most especially with the experience of Itumeleng Khune in the team, being a hero, being a legend, we actually learn from him everyday to become better.
You know, in the game and I must tell you that it has really been a positive energy from that department.
So that is why we can say for now that the department is strong and we are more like brothers in that department, because we support each other whenever anyone gets the nod to play.
As a Goalstopper which Goalscorer has disturbed you the most? In the league and as a National Team player.
Akpeyi: As a goalstopper, you face different strikers everytime, both in the league and in the national team.
It also depends on the striker, who’s actually in the best of form at that game.
So we don’t always look forward to having to prepare for one striker or one good set piece player
So you just have to prepare for every member of a particular team at every given game. So to me, that is my own notion towards this.
But I must say that I am delighted to have played against Luiz Suarez in a friendly game and Riyad Mahrez as well in the last nation’s cup
These are the two players that have actually scored me, some of the questionable goals and which of course, we learn everyday as a goalkeeper.
You learn every day from every game, and I’ve also encountered people who strikers have actually scored some questionable goals against too.
But, we we learn from every goal and some of the questionable goals are not actually been scored by a striker. So I think it’s from different Department of the Field, apart from the goalkeeper.
So I’m not actually thinking of a particular player on the field. I just set my mind for everyone on the field.
Tell us how your journey into the Super Eagles goalkeeping department started? Especially the happenings behind the scenes.
Akpeyi: My journey for the Super Eagles has been an interesting one.
Me being part of the super Eagles came as a result of hardwork, and the opportunity was being given to me.
One of the games that brought me into the limelight was the friendly game we played in 2015 with Bafana Bafana of South Africa, where we played 1-1 and I was able to save a penalty.
So this actually put me in the limelight in the national team, and ever since then, I have been getting the nod to play, in the national team.
The Journey hasn’t been easy and you know what it means for you to put on the green and white for Nigeria, because Nigeria is blessed with a whole lot of talent all over the world. So when you get selected among the few of twenty three among probably hundred of thousands of players, you should be grateful.
It’s a great honour, for me to be a part of the team. And I must say that I am grateful to God, because my journey with the national team actually started right from the under 17, junior world cup, then moved to the under 20, from there to the U-23, so I’ve played in all the age groups of the national team to the senior team.
So it’s been a long journey. It’s been almost 15 years I’ve been from the junior team to the senior team in the national team.
So it’s been a great experience. And I must say I’m grateful to God that I’m still plying the trade.
And I’m still in the national team this day. To be honest, currently it has not been easy. But again, it’s not going to be easy when you’re playing in the national team. But when you’re mentally strong, it gives you the energy to actually face any kind of challenges that comes ones way, that’s the first step, then you move on from there.
There’s this sort of rivalry that Nigeria and South has in football, but you’ve been a hero for the Chiefs.
In general, how do the South Africans treat you?
Do they show this rivalry towards you?
Akpeyi: We know that there has actually been rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa when It comes to soccer.
Remember during the Nations Cup in Egypt, when we had to play the Bafana Bafana
There were lot of things going on out there, but I was looking forward to having a better game. Which eventually turned out to be good, as we won that game.
But, I think the South Africans have actually treated me well, accepting me, certainly accepting my flaws and most especially here in chiefs, my flaws were accepted.
They never criticized me and the team or whatsoever. They supported me. when sometimes they used to say when the chips are down, who are your bonds.
Every member of the family actually supported me and they actually stood by me and believed in me, and actually made me, who I am, in the team and in South Africa today.
So I’m very grateful to the Amakhosi family. I’m very, very grateful to them.
They don’t really show these rivalry towards me, to be honest. You know what football is all about, football is all about peace and love, though sometimes there can be agony in the game, and pain, especially when you lose a game, and nobody wants to lose.
But at the same time, we just understand the situation as soccer players that this is going to be the approach. So you have to live with that, and so far, I have actually gained their love and their applause and these are one of the things that carries me on till now.
Should Daniel Akpeyi be Nigeria’s number 1?
Finally, how hard are you working to get to being the Number 1 goalie for the Super Eagles of Nigeria?
Akpeyi: Well, I’ve been doing my best, regarding remaining in the national team, but I cannot determine who plays or who doesn’t play.
All I can do is when the nod is being given to me to play, all I need to do is to try as much as possible to do my best at every given point in time.
So being the number one of the team that I don’t know, but one thing I look forward to always having is a good game, each time that I’m being given the opportunity to play because we also have quality goalkeepers in the team.
Someone like Francis Uzoho and Ezenwa and a couple of all others who have not even been invited to the team as well.
I know they are doing very well in their various teams because Nigeria have got good goalkeepers also somehow in some parts of the world.
So it’s just to keep working hard, and for now, it all depends on how many opportunities are being given to me to play and how to actually do well, in the opportunities being given to me.