New Delhi: Mohun Bagan`s new recruit, Okolie Odafa has expressed his desire to represent the Indian football team, for which he is even ready to surrender his Nigerian passport.
"I have been part of this magnificent country for so many years now. If I fall into the scheme of things for the Indian national football team, I would be very much interested in representing India at the international stage.”
"For that, I need to surrender my Nigerian passport which I don`t mind. But I need to discuss it at length with my family," Odafa, who was signed for a record 1.7 crore by Mohun Bagan, said.
A club looking to revive its fortunes after a disastrous past season, Mohun Bagan were lured into doling such a huge amount for the former Churchill Brothers striker who has been topping the scoring charts for the past four I-League seasons.
The price tag, however, does not seem to burden Odafa.
"Every professional is burdened with pressure. I want to play my normal game. Football is all about scoring goals and I want to score as many as possible for Mohun Bagan. Football is a sport where 11 compete against 11. I will just play my role," he said.
Once shunned by Kolkata, Odafa has returned to the city with a new challenge.
"It`s a new challenge. I was happy in Churchill Brothers and Mr. Churchill (Alemao) loved me like anything. But one needs to move on in life. I would lie if I say I don`t miss Churchill Brothers. But as a professional, you need to change gears. There`s a fear of losing respect if one stays at one certain place for too long. Maybe, I may go back to Churchill Brothers one day.”
"The Almighty took me away from Kolkata; the Almighty has now brought me back to Kolkata; the Almighty has also given me the signal that people are expecting a lot from me," he said.
After being with Churchill Brothers for so many seasons, one is bound to ask Odafa about the kind of sentiment it will evoke when Mohun Bagan play his former club in the ongoing Federation Cup.
"One is my former team, the memories of which I will carry forever. The other is my present team where I earn my bread and butter from. I will give my 100 per cent to ensure Mohun Bagan win every match this season. They have signed me for a purpose and I can`t let them down. The rest is for the Almighty to decide," he said.
Asked about former player Cheema Okorie, who reportedly brokered the deal with Mohun Bagan, Odafa said, "Cheema has always been my friend, philosopher and guide. Cheema has taught me what to do and what not to. His experience of playing in India has guided me. I consult him on almost every matter, be it professional or personal."
As far as progress of Indian football was concerned, Odafa only had positive things to say.
"The attitude of the players, the fitness level and off-the-ball play have improved leaps and bounds. There are so many good players around; there`s competition among them. Most importantly the physique of the players is bound to strike you."
It is not pleasant at all that I had to approach the court but there was no option left for me. I am glad that I have been proved right and it has lifted my morale ahead for the Asian Games.
Manoj Kumar, Indian boxer