Nasarawa United midfielder, Lordson Ichull, was influential as the Solid Miners reached their first Federation Cup final. The 22-year-old tells Idris Adesina about his dreams and more in this interview
Nasarawa finished 11th in the Premier League and second in the Federation Cup. How would you rate your season?
The season was not much of a success because our target was to earn a continental ticket but that didn’t happen. We however tried our best in the Federation Cup and made history as the first team from Nasarawa State to get to the final of the competition. I believe that next season we will do better than that.
Do you think playing your home matches at the Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi affected your performance in the league?
As a player, I don’t believe that playing matches away from home affects a team because there are teams who will beat you both home and away. Travelling from Lafia to Makurdi for our home games may truly have affected us because of the stress involved but we still got some good results in Makurdi. Although the home advantage factor in football cannot be ruled out because it enables more of your fans to come and cheer you to victory, I believe we also dropped some points away from home. The state government has promised us that the Lafia stadium will soon be completed and we can return home next season.
For reaching their first Federation Cup final, Governor Tanko Al-Makura rewarded the club with cash and plots of land. How does that make you feel?
Really it came as a surprise to me because I wasn’t expecting anything after we lost the final. The governor had promised to reward us with property in Abuja if we won the Federation Cup but since we lost on penalties, I wasn’t expecting anything. So, the reward came as a big surprise to me and I was very excited about it. It showed that the governor appreciated our efforts and would have done more if we had won the title.
You were substituted early in the final against IfeanyiUbah due to injury. Do you think Nasarawa could have won with you in the game?
I believe that losing the title was hard luck because we played better than IfeanyiUbah in that match. We had more chances than they had but their goalkeeper was one of the reasons the game went into penalties. If I was in the match there was little I could have done because at Nasarawa, we play more as a team than as individuals. So my injury and early substitution didn’t affect the outcome of the match. I only believe we were unlucky to have lost the title.
You have played continental football with Warri Wolves and also Nasarawa United but next season you will not be playing on the continent. How does that make you feel?
Playing continental football gives added advantage to a player. It allows a player to show himself to other clubs outside the country. Having played on the continent I know it could be very challenging so missing out on continental football next season only tells me that I can do more for the team and return another day.
Nasarawa got to the final of the Federation Cup without conceding any goal in regulation time. Is Kabiru Dogo a defensive minded coach?
The coach is a wonderful person to work with. I can say that he is one of the best coaches in the league today. He tells us to go out and give our best in every match. He has a good relationship with every player. He also listens to his players. He identifies each player’s strength and lets him know that he can build on it for the team to be better. Not conceding goals in the Federation Cup is a result of teamwork and unity, which the coach helped us to build. He lets us know that we have to play as a unit – both in the attack and the defence.
You started football at the Kwara Football Academy under the tutelage of former Super Eagles coach Clemens Westerhof. What did you learn from the Dutchman?
Anytime I look back at my football career, I always give thanks to God for the opportunity I had to be at KFA and learn how to play football under Westerhof, who taught me a lot. My football skills, which were very raw then, were refined by him and today I am the better for it. Apart from the football skills I learnt from him, he taught me life values – he let me know that I am always a winner no matter what happens; he let me know that I can do anything if my mind is set on it; he also helped me to discover who I am as a person and that there is no limit to what I can achieve in life, both in and outside of football.
You have brief stints in the national teams – first the U-23 in 2014 and the Super Eagles in 2015. How has the experience impacted your game?
Being called to the national team is a very good thing. It shows that the coaches see something good in me and being dropped from the team eventually doesn’t mean I wasn’t good enough, rather it tells me that I should do more to get another chance. Every player wants to play for his country and I am not left out. The experience in the national teams was very good because it gave me the opportunity to identify some of my weak areas which I needed to work more on. Since there are many players in your position who also want to make the team, I can only go back and get better at my game to stand another chance at being called up to the team again.
What areas of the Premier League do you think needs improvements?
The league is fast growing and the League Management Company should be commended for that. But there is more they can do in the area of players’ welfare. I think there should be a law that will force clubs to take care of their players. As a club, Nasarawa is one of the few clubs in Nigeria that are doing all they can to take care of their players but some other clubs in the country are defaulting and the players don’t know who to hold responsible for their money. For instance, before I left Warri Wolves, they were owing me and they have yet to pay the monies they owe me. Another area which needs improvement is the refereeing. The referees have influenced the outcome of many games and that should not be. They are human beings and prone to errors but they should reduce it to the barest minimum and avoid glaring ones.
With the improvement of the domestic league, do you think the home-based players deserve more places in the Eagles squad for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers?
When home-based players have more chances to play in the national team, it will reduce the hunger to play abroad because the ultimate target of every player is to wear the national team colours. I know it is quite a big challenge for the coach to select players because he wants to win games and he will go for players who can give him the results. But I believe that if the local boys are given the opportunity, they will compete favourably with the overseas-based professionals. With time when the league season starts, I believe the coach will see more of the home-based players and give us a chance in the team.
As a product of a football academy, would you advocate for more football academies in Nigeria?
Yes, because it is very important. That is what makes the difference between Europe and Africa. In Africa we do not have standard football academies. We grow on raw talents but in Europe, they nurture their talents and make them look great as if they are something else. Having more football academies will make the sport grow better from the grassroots. Thank God for clubs like IfeanyiUbah who have started something along that line. In the nearest future we will see the fruits of that in Nigerian football. I can imagine how good our footballers would be if they were able to learn football skills under world-class coaches like Westerhof and others at KFA.
Are you going to be with Nasarawa United next season?
Right now, my contract with the club has ended but I am hoping for the best to happen. I signed a year contract with the club when I left Wolves.