They fans call him the King Cobra and this season, they have even painted the Cobra Green and Maroon in all the banners. The biggest star in Indian football Odafe Onyeka Okolie in a freewheeling interview to www.the-aiff.com spoke at length about his move to Mohun Bagan, the secret of his success and his burning desire to don the Indian National colours.
What was your first impression when you saw banners of a Green and Maroon King Cobra on the McDowell Mohun Bagan club lawns?
Football is for the fans. They love me like anything. Yeah, I saw it (and Odafa bursts into laughter).
What brings you to Kolkata?
It’s a new challenge. I was happy in Churchill Brothers and Mr. Churchill loved me like anything. I was like his son. He is a nice man. My family loved the place. But one needs to move on in life. I discussed it with Mr. Churchill before moving to McDowell Mohun Bagan. 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.
You were once shunned by Kolkata teams. Now that you come back with the tag of the Highest Paid Footballer in the Country, do you see it as Divine Justice?
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.
Does your price tag burden you with any extra pressure?
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.
What kind of sentiment will it evoke when Mohun Bagan play Churchill Brothers in the 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 percent 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.
What role has Cheema Okorie played in your life?
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.
What has changed in Indian football scenario since you first started playing here?
A lot! 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. From the administrative part, there are positive developments taking place. Indian football is looking ahead.
Would you be interested in representing the Indian National Football Team?
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.
(AIFF Press Release)