Omeruo loving Chelsea life


When Kenneth Omeruo returned to Chelsea training after Nigeria qualified for the World Cup on November 16, David Luiz walked over to the youngster, shook his hand and said: “Well done, welcome to Brazil.’’ This week’s group-stage draw will further focus the minds of those heading to the 2014 World Cup.

Luiz’s compatriots, Oscar, Ramires and Willian, also congratulated the 20-year-old centre-half.

So did the other players. Omeruo has yet to make his debut for Chelsea but is popular amongst the players and is highly regarded enough by Jose Mourinho to have a shirt, No 59, and a place in training.
Omeruo is being talked of as one of the potential young stars of the tournament. He has had a remarkable year, winning his first cap in January against Cape Verde, winning the Africa Cup of Nations, playing in the Confederations Cup in Brazil and guaranteeing a return with that qualifying success in a rainy Calabar and his 15th cap.
"I’ve been dreaming of playing in the World Cup," said Omeruo. "Playing in the Confederations Cup gave us the desire that we had to be in the World Cup. I’m really looking forward to the draw. If we get England, we will have to prepare our minds right.
"At Chelsea, we are really focused on the club but sometimes Jose makes fun. In a training session last week, I made a wrong pass. ‘If you do that in the World Cup, Nigeria is out!’ Jose said. We were laughing. It’s quite quiet now about the World Cup between the players but after the draw, it will get noisy.
"I talked to Luiz about the World Cup. He speaks good English and he’s a really nice guy.

Before the last game (the win over Ethiopia), Luiz and the other Brazilians were making fun of us: ‘Are you are going to qualify?!’ It’s nice. When I came back, Luiz said: ‘Well done, welcome to Brazil.’ They all said nice things.
"It was great when we qualified. Everyone was so happy. It was like when we won the Nations Cup, it was crazy. Everyone was on the street. We couldn’t fail the fans. We had to qualify for them. When I was injured (a shoulder injury picked up against Spain during the Confederations Cup) I got messages and tweets from fans saying how much they missed me. The coach Stephen Keshi called me to find out how I was doing, to let me know I was still part of the team. I was eager to come back and play."
This will be the Super Eagles’ fifth World Cup and a nation of 160 million backs them passionately. "When I was young, and Nigeria won, I would join everyone running in the streets of Abuja, the capital where I grew up. My dad is a plumber and my mum has a small restaurant.

We always watched Nigeria’s games.
"From when I was a young age, my mum always said: ‘One day you’re going to wear the national team jersey.’ It’s happened. The Under-17 World Cup in 2009 was in Abuja which made my mother very happy. She didn’t miss anything. She closed the restaurant, and everyone came to the games, always wishing me good luck."
He was too young to remember Nigeria’s greatest side which reached the round of 16 at USA 94 and France 98. "People always talk about the 94 team. Michael Emenalo (Chelsea’s technical director) was in the team. The coach now, Stephen Keshi, was the captain then. When he addresses us, he says that he sees the character of that 94 side in us now. It means a lot.
"There were times when there was no unity in the national team. In 2010, the country was really disappointed with the outcome." The president Goodluck Jonathan was so angered by the team’s performance in South Africa that he briefly banned them.
"Now the atmosphere is really good. We work together. Now if you see us, everyone jokes with each other. We have a character Azubuike (Egwuekwe), a centre-back who plays in Nigeria (for Warri Wolves). He is the character, very loud and jokey. He makes fun of even the coaches when they are not paying attention. We won the Nations Cup, the Under-17s won the World Cup (in November) and we’ve qualified for Brazil. We just have to improve on that and make an impression in the World Cup."
He’s come a long way. "I grew up playing in the streets of Abuja. We’re a football family. My father used to be a goalkeeper locally, not serious. My older brother plays. My younger brother will be going to Standard Liege for a trial. A coach of a boys’ club came to our house, talked to my parents and said: ‘Your son is playing with me’. I played barefoot in matches until I was 10. In 2009, I went to Anderlecht for two months, came back, and then Standard Liege sent for me.
"I was playing at Standard Liege in the reserves, then played in the Under-20 World Cup and got a call that Chelsea were interested. Emenalo was the one that called. I couldn’t believe it.

Chelsea! I watched Chelsea growing up. I liked Mikel and I used to hear about Celestine Babayaro. When Chelsea win in Nigeria, people celebrate like it’s the country winning. Chelsea are more popular than Manchester United in Nigeria. United are the second.
"In some places they actually fight after Chelsea against Manchester United games. You also see the bikers who do the transportation ride around with the flags of Chelsea and Man U. That’s how much they love football in Nigeria.
"When I got signed by Chelsea I was loaned directly to Den Haag to improve my game. Their fans are passionate. Every player has a song the fans sing to boost you. The Den Haag fans shout my name and sing: ‘He’s here, he’s there, he’s every f****** where’."
Omeruo played right-back to cover for injuries but “centre-back is my best position”. Mourinho clearly rates him. "The way he talks about me, and says ‘Kenneth, my friend’, gave me the impression he actually likes me. After the Nations Cup when he came in, Mikel told me Jose asked after me. So I was happy that he recognizes me.
"In Nigeria everyone says: ‘He’s the Special One! The Special One!’ Coming close you really know why he’s special. The players respect him. He knows how to handle the players, how to talk to us. The training is the best. At first it was difficult to cope but now I’m used to it.

Before the West Ham game, he knew what pattern West Ham were going to play. We were the other team, playing like West Ham were going to play, and everything Jose spoke about in training happened in the game. I got to respect him even more because of that.
"The players are nice people. Michael Essien is really nice to me. Ashley Cole always encourages me. Every tackle I win you always hear him say: ‘Well done Kenneth’. Ash tells me: ‘It’s going to be your time soon and you have to grab the opportunity when it comes’. John Terry is good, talking to us. He’s huge, strong. As a young player when I watch the older ones, putting so much effort into training, I tell myself I have to do more.
"I have to be really focused in training. Each striker is a talent. If you have not conceded a

goal for five minutes, you think you are good enough to play anywhere. It’s tough playing against Fernando Torres. You have to be strong and make sure he doesn’t beat you. These are great players I used to watch when I was in Belgium. It feels good to play with them. Samuel Eto’o is so big in Africa. I was really happy when I got to meet Eto’o and Essien."
Omeruo nodded at the mention of the kinship between African footballers seen with the continent’s support of Ghana in the knock-out stages of 2010.
"We give all the support to all the other African countries. In the Under-20 World Cup in Colombia, when Ghana were out, their coaches and players came to us and said: ‘You are the ones left now, make us proud’." Omeruo hopes to make his country, his continent and Chelsea proud.

Originaly published by The Telegraph


0 #1 DESMOND CHUKWUKWELU 2013-12-03 18:51

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