Nigeria defender William Troost-EKong has said there were doubts about his ability to play well for Nigeria when he was first called-up to the team.
Troost-Ekong made his debut for Nigeria in 2015 and has gone on to make 19 appearances for the Eagles. He was pivotal as the Super Eagles became the first African team to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup.
In an interview with on Thursday, the 24-year-old Dutch-born defender, who has formed a solid partnership with German-born defender Leon Balogun, said he was disappointed when he was told by former Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh that he was not physically capable of playing in Africa.
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He said, “There were a lot of doubts over me because I did not play for a big team in Holland before my first call-up. Then, on top of that, being ‘Oyibo’, or half-white, you have to prove yourself even more.
“My partner at center-back (new Brighton signing Leon Balogun) is half-German, half-Nigerian, so he is the same as me. After a game, he (Oliseh) said we were too soft to play against African players. That upset me because one of my traits as a player is that I am someone who does not back away from anyone. I am not the most skillful, but I know what I am good at.
“I think that’s part of being from different countries, different cultures. It’s not nice when people try to use that against you. I identify myself as being Nigerian as well, and I feel at home in the team. Not once have I ever looked around and thought ‘this is not for me’. But it spurred me on. I have played against African strikers since then and no one has bullied me. I have proven my point.”
With England playing Nigeria today in a friendly on Saturday at Wembley as both countries prepare for the June 14 to July 15 Russia 2018 World Cup, the Turkey-based defender said his meeting with Kane would feel like a homecoming for him – having schooled in London before leaving England in 2013.
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He said the striker once helped him to fill out his registration forms when he was a new scholar at Tottenham.
“He was one of the first guys that sat me down and helped me; it’s amazing to see how well he has done,” he said.
Troost-Ekong earlier this year became the third African player to commit one percent of his salary to charity as part of Juan Mata’s Common Goal project. He is born to a Nigerian father and Dutch mother. His fiancée is in England – expecting their first child.
Source: The Punch
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