Call him the Vincent Kompany or Sergio Ramos of Enyimba and you would be right. Ifeanyi Anaemena is the top-scoring defender in the Nigeria Professional Football League this season with six goals to his name already.
He is surprisingly also the top scorer for the People’s Elephant; scoring crucial goals outside of his primary duty of stopping opponents from doing the same.
As the curtain falls on the first phase of the 2019 NPFL season, Anaemena speaks to PREMIUM TIMES on the journey so far and his expectations on the last day
Read excerpts from the interview.
PT: You are having a fantastic time with Enyimba this season. Has it ever been this good for you with the People’s Elephant?
Yes, I expected that this season would be good for me. I actually also had a fantastic time last season going as far as the semifinal of the CAF Confederation Cup, so I told myself I have to build on that.
I was actually thinking that with my performance last season, I will get a new offer (abroad)… there were offers that came but I still had a running contract with Enyimba and so things did not work out. But for me, I just felt it was not God’s time for me to move yet. So, in all, I am very happy with how things are going with performance but I will definitely work harder to get better in what I am doing
PT: Enyimba have not yet qualified for the Super Six but they stand a good chance if they do well in their final game. Will you say you and your teammates have done well enough this season or ought to have done better?
I will say we have not done enough as a team simply because we have not qualified yet for the playoffs until the last day before we know where we stand. We have our destiny in our hands so we are not depending on other results. We have to go to Katsina to make sure we qualify. It will be discouraging that after all our efforts and hard work we now fail to qualify for the Super Six, that would be very bad. But sincerely, we are more than determined to make sure we qualify.
PT: You have been playing in the Nigerian league for long. Will you say there was any improvement in the 2019 season compared to the past years?
The league has actually improved a great deal in terms of officiating and in some other departments as well.
Enyimba, for example, went on a 12-match unbeaten run, Rangers went on 13-match though not all in the league. So it was really good for us going away to pick points. This season (2018/19) there is no home, there is no away.
The LMC have really done well in the officiating department such that home games are even tougher for teams. You see teams that are battling with relegation going to win away matches.
PT: You have featured prominently for Enyimba this season and even wearing the captain’s armband in some games. Which match will you regard as your toughest and why?
The toughest game for me this season was when we played Rivers United at home in Aba. Though we won the game 2-0, it was really a tough game, which was like a local derby; they actually came all out to get a positive result in Aba. I remembered we did not score in the first half and had to wait till the second half before we could score. It was really a tough match.
The game against Remo in Sagamu was equally a tough one. The coach told us to go and commit suicide in the game and come out alive.
If we had not gotten that one point, we will not have the slim advantage we have over MFM now, it would have been the end of the road for us by now. So it was also a tough game for me also, we fought gallantly after what happened at home against Wikki Tourists.
PT: You have come against many strikers in the league this season, who are the best ones you can remember?
There is one boy at Sunshine Stars, Abia (Israel Abia). The boy is very good, he is a very good striker, I must confess. Also the Ivorian striker at Enugu Rangers (Seka Pascal) is very good, he uses both legs, well-built and also skillful.
PT: How are you looking forward to your final game of the season against Katsina United?
The game against Katsina United is a determinant for us qualifying for the Super Six, so we are determined to go all out there to get the result that will keep our hopes of qualifying alive. I know it is going to be a tough game; especially as they are also battling against relegation while we are fighting for a slot in the playoffs.
It is going to a tough game but we are prepared.