Defensive midfielder-turned right fullback, Terna Suswan has set three top targets for himself ahead of the 2011 African Youth Championship (AYC) – winning the championship in South Africa as well as the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Colombia, before striking Olympic Gold in London next year.
The Flying Eagles star was a whisker away from making the 2010 World Cup final squad, but now says his own World Cup will be with the U20s, also in South Africa, beginning from next week.
QUESTION: Suswan, you have only recently signed for Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal. What are the details of this contract?
SUSWAN: I have signed for two and a half years. I was on trials for about two months. I arrived Portugal late because of visa issues, rather than be with the team before the start of the season. So, I was forced to stay back till the January transfer window.
Certainly there were interests from some other clubs as well.
Yes, there were other clubs who were interested in me, like FC Cologne in Germany and Sporting Braga in Portugal. But Setubal were more serious.
You have since made your debut for your new club
Yes. I came on for a couple of minutes. It was really great because it was a long time since I was on the pitch for a competitive game since September. We got an away draw in a very crucial match.
How are your team faring now?
We are not really doing very well now, but at the same time we are not down because of the financial difficulties in Portugal. It is only a handful of clubs like Porto, Benfica, Braga and Sporting Lisbon, who are not really affected by the financial crunch.
Are you worried that your first European club are facing financial problems?
I’m not worried because everything has a reason for happening. I believe everything will be okay soon.
You are now with the Under-20 team and have also featured for both the ‘B’ national team as well as the Olympic team. Is this something you can really handle especially as you are now playing in Europe?
I can handle all the demands because Nigeria is my country and so I will do everything to serve my country anytime I am given such big opportunity.
So, how difficult was it for you to be released by your European club for this tournament especially as it is not on the FIFA calendar?
On this Sunday morning, I received invitations from both the U20 and U23 national teams. I was a bit confused and got in touch with my former club boss, Dominic Iorfa. He told me to come down for both teams.
Setubal saw this as an opportunity for a young player like me to make more progress in my career and they did not want to stand in my way. They were happy for the recognition I got.
I would have returned to Portugal after the Olympic qualifier against Equatorial Guinea in Benin City, but my club later met and told me to stay back with the U20s.
I’m grateful to my club for such understanding.
You were named on the provisional squad for the 2010 World Cup. How close you really to making the final squad?
I really can’t say what happened that I did not make the final squad. Most of the players were tipping me to make the squad especially because of injuries to some of the top players. Like my roommate Akpan Bassey would say ‘guy, yours is sure’.
But when the list was announced, I still thanked God because I was not the best player from the Nigerian league but was called up for the final preparations for the World Cup.
Were you disappointed?
Not at all. I believe my own time will come. Football is all about time.
Probably your own World Cup could be the African Youth Championship, which will also be hosted by South Africa.
Yes. It’s funny because the visa I am using for the AYC is the visa I was granted for the 2010 World Cup. This is my own World Cup.
How are you then looking forward to this?
We have a good team and I don’t see any reasons why we cannot make Nigerians proud in South Africa. We are a family, we move like a chain, and we have worked very hard.
You will be African champions again?
Yes, we will win the cup.
You are one of the most senior players in the team going by your international experience. Are you under some sort of pressure as a result?
I don’t feel any pressure. The coach (John Obuh) has taken all of us along like a good father should.
You are drawn with the world champions Ghana and your opening Group B game is against them. Nigerians expect victory.
They should expect nothing less. We want to win and show we are the best. We are the champions.
It’s an honour to play for Nigeria. Had the tournament been played in Libya, I would most certainly not have featured. But God has his reasons for everything. I believe the cup is ours as well as the World Cup in Colombia and the Gold at the Olympics next year.
COMPILED BY SAMM AUDU, MEDIA OFFICER NIGERIA UNDER-20 TEAM
PIX CAPTION: Flying Eagles star defender, Terna Suswan
PHOTO CREDIT Kabiru Abubakar/Backpage Media