Kolkata: The FIFA U17 World Cup is coasting and the Trophy tour has already started to entertain the football crazy fans in the country. Today, the city got graced by the presence of the Nigerian great Rabiu Afolabi, who has come here to promote the gala event. In an interaction with www.xtratime.in correspondent Misha Ghosh, the Monaco great spoke about a lot of issues. Starting from Jose Mourinho to Manchester United and FIFA U17 World Cup, Afolabi was conspicuous with all his answers. Here goes the conversation:
XT: Your thoughts on the FIFA U17 World Cup?
Afolabi: It’s a great event. All the top football playing nations will be coming here like Brazil, England, and France. Any FIFA tournament is huge and I am pretty sure this World Cup will also be a grand event.
XT: How will the young players benefit from this mega tournament?
Afolabi: It’s a huge opportunity for each and every one of them. If they can grab the proper chance then they will hugely benefit from it. The Indian team is a good team and we expect some great football in this tournament.
XT: Kolkata and football goes hand in hand. What Your thoughts on the trophy inauguration and the Mission XI Million?
Afolabi: It’s a great initiative. A huge number of kids have turned up here. It’s delightful to see these young kids hitting the ball. If you have to be successful then you must keep your dream alive. You need to be passionate, determined and focused to achieve your dream. There are some great talents in these kids; if they are properly groomed, then they will succeed a lot.
XT: What are the preparations of your nation?
Afolabi: Nigeria has always been a strong side. The players are always determined and focused to do better. The preparation is good and the progress is also appreciable. I also wanted Nigeria to compete in the U17 World Cup however unfortunately we couldn’t qualify. We would try our best in the next World Cup.
XT: You have played for Monaco AC. Give us a little insight about the club
Afolabi: Monaco is a great club which specially gives a lot of emphasis on the Youth Development. The Youth Programs helped us to bring out a lot of Young talented players who made it to the top level like M’Bappe and Martial.
XT: Monaco prodigy Kyillian M’Bappe is such a great player and he has made it to the grand stage in such a tender age of 19 years
Afolabi: M’Bappe is a brilliant player. He is clinical, knows the game well and progresses with each passing day. Apart from his inborn talent, he is extremely focused for his goal and trains hard to achieve greatness. You see M’Bappe and Martial are similar type of players. They are destined for greatness.
XT: M’Bappe’s move to PSG in this transfer window, shook the entire footballing world as he was approached by Real Madrid. Do you think it was a good move for him? Will he get enough enough time in the field?
Afolabi: Absolutely it’s a perfect move for him. He will be staying in France and PSG is just perfect for him. He will be playing alongside some of the best players like Neymar and Verratti. He would certainly learn a lot and improve his game from them.
On the other hand, had he moved to Real Madrid, which would have harmed his career. You see Real is a star studded team. He wouldn’t have got enough playing time. Apart from that there is a lot of ego among the players at such a level. I don’t think a kid like him could have handled ego and pressure altogether.
XT: Alongside M’Bappe, another prodigy from Monaco was Anthony Martial who moved to Manchester a couple of years back for a staggering price of 50million. He was brilliant in his first season while he faltered in his second. What are your expectations from him in this season?
Afolabi: Martial is a brilliant player and the transfer money for him is justified. Currently his value is a lot more than that 50 million. He had an upgrade as moved to the English Premier League (EPL). You see it’s the biggest league of the world and Manchester is one of the greatest clubs of the world. The club is rich in it’s history and living up to it’s expectations is huge. He was terrific in his first season and I am hopeful he will play even better this season. He got some odd minutes in the game and he already has a couple of goals and assists. He is just a kid, give him time and he will play well. Most importantly he will be playing under Jose Mourinho, who is one of the top managers of recent times and Mourinho always nurtures his young players passionately.
XT: What do you want to say about Jose Mourinho and his affection towards French players?
Afolabi: Yes it’s true, Mourinho favours the French players a lot. Last season we saw that he bought Paul Pogba who is a top class player. Pogba will be having a great season and he will be instrumental for United in the upcoming days. Mourinho also plans to land a couple of more French players and in the next season we can get to see the likes of Antoine Griezzman and Lemar in Manchester United.