Going by his whole-hearted displays for the Flying Eagles in Colombia, Olanrewaju Kayode has most certainly banished the ghosts that haunted him after a below-par showing at the U17 World Cup two years ago.
Such is the confidence he is riding on these past few days that the Nigeria top striker has now opened up on his personal quest to be both top player of the U20 World Cup as well as the Goal King.
QUESTION: You take on France on Sunday in Cali in a quarterfinal match of this year’s U20 World Cup. What have you seen of the French team in Colombia?
KAYODE: They are a good side, highly technical and strong side. They also play a lot in midfield and deserve to be in the last eight of the tournament.
But we will work hard to beat them.
Kayode, you never played for a league club in Nigeria before you left the country. Tell us your own very unique beginning.
I started my career with the Nigeria Football Academy in Ibadan. From there one of the coaches at this academy took me to Ghana, where I joined the Red Bull Soccer Academy. I was at this academy for two years.
During this time, there were interests from the Ghana FA, top Ghanaian clubs as well as clubs from Europe for you.
Yes, a club like Read Madrid were even reported to be interested but the director at the club refused to let me go.
There was also some moves for me to play for Ghana, but my coach insisted I remain patient and wait for my chance with Nigeria.
How then did you get to feature for Nigeria at the 2009 U17 World Cup, which the country hosted?
Former Ghana international defender Tony Baffoe who is close to the director at Red Bull recommended me to the Nigeria FA and they invited me to come and try my luck with the U17 team. He followed my progress very closely during my time in Ghana.
You were top striker for the Golden Eaglets leading to the U17 World Cup, but somehow you did not have such a great showing as you were often played as a late substitute.
It was a very horrible experience for me and really wish to forget it. I’m so delighted that things are very different now in Colombia.
Two years ago, I lost concentration, I was not focused.
I’m now a better player and person after such an experience.
But you also enjoyed a fine run at the African Youth Championship, scoring a goal and getting a penalty for another goal as Nigeria beat Cameroon 3-2 to be champions for the sixth time.
Yes, I was focused. I now know what I really want – to be best player of the tournament and also win the Golden Boot awards.
You have so far scored three goals in as many matches. Are you satisfied?
No I’m not.
So, what is your personal goals target in Colombia then?
To score 10 goals.
Is that not asking too much of yourself?
Yes, it is but I know I can do it.
You play in Cote d’Ivoire with Asec Mimosas. How has it been playing with that country’s most popular club?
I have been doing well. They have made me a better player and they tell me they now have several clubs in Europe for me. After the World Cup we will sit down and discuss this fully.
Which club have they so far mentioned to you?
Dynamo Kiev, Lyon and some other clubs also in Europe.
How have you fared at Asec so far?
I have played five matches and scored six goals, two in the CAF Champions League and four in the league.
Wishing you more goals at Colombia 2011.