Twenty-one-year-old Dutch-born Nigeria defender William Troost-Ekong made his debut for the former African champions last June against Chad.
The game ended 2-0 in favour of the Super Eagles in front of a big crowd in Kaduna. William impressed the crowd, the media and the coaches as he partnered with Kenneth Omeruo.
New coach Sunday Oliseh must have seen that performance and called the former Dutch national youth team player to his first squad that will play against Tanzania on September 5 in Dar es Salam.
While the Nigeria Football Federation has not hidden its desire to bring home players with Nigerian heritage born abroad, the decision of players like Troost-Ekong to turn up for their fatherland and their success with the Eagles could help swing a new generation of players’ decisions to come home.
In this interview with Goal.com, William talks about returning to the Super Eagles for the game against the Taifa Stars as well as his plans for the season at Norwegian side Haugesund where he is playing on loan from Belgian side Gent.
You won your first Nigeria cap in June under Stephen Keshi and have been called up by new coach, Sunday Oliseh, meaning you made a big impression first time out, what changes do you anticipate in the technical input of the new coach assuming he spoke to you about his personal plans
I am grateful coach Oliseh has recognised that and called me up again, I have spoken with him but will hear and learn more about his personal plans when I meet up with the team and technical crew at camp.
There is always culture shock when you come to a new environment, how did you cope and which new traditions have amused you the most among the players
It wasn’t a big shock, I have been to Nigeria countless times and my father is still based in Lagos. I enjoyed the togetherness of the group, which was created by things like praying together before the game. Everyone made me feel welcome.
How important was it making the decision to play for Nigeria, was the Dutch senior team an option
I have played for the Dutch junior representative teams up to U20s so it could have been an option. But having to make the choice I wanted to represent Nigeria and I was very proud to put on the shirt and hopefully continue to do so.
The NFF is reaching out to many players born abroad, you have come back home to play for your father’s country alongside players like Leon Balogun and Steven Ukoh, what signal does this send to other younger players with Nigerian heritage
I like to see Leon, Steven and I as great examples of players of a younger generation that are showing that it is the right choice to make. But there have been others in the past who have also done that. It should be an internal desire to represent Nigeria, I honestly don’t think it is a hard choice.
When you made your debut for the Eagles in June, the team had just come together for its first game after the AFCON debacle, was there disappointment among the squad and how did they gather together to defeat Chad
I didn’t experience that like they did, but there was a real focus to look forward to the opening game of the new campaign against Chad and the games that followed in order to restore Nigeria’s reputation.
You played well with Kenneth Omeruo in central defense, it was the first time both of you were combined, was it easy reading him and do you think you can continue to build on this partnership
It is up to coach Oliseh who he wants to play. I think my first outing with Kenneth went well, he is a good player and having both played in Holland and England at certain levels it made it easier to read each other’s style. I will be competing for my place in the starting team again.
Who made it easiest for you to settle into camp when you arrived in June and how were you received by the bulk of players
The bulk, like I mentioned earlier everyone from the players to the technical staff were welcoming and you earn the respect on the pitch.
The most experienced player in the squad is goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who spoke to the younger players about forgetting the debacle of the AFCON crash, how were you able to play in front of him without getting jitters during your debut
That was an important factor. Vincent is a great keeper and leader so having that kind of experience behind you during a game gives you the confidence to excel and execute my task within the team well.
You have played in three matches for Haugesund, starting well you won two and lost one, how important is it that you have a good season at the Norwegian side before returning to Gent
It is always important to have a good season. I ended last season in Holland well which earned me my move to Gent, now I want to continue to build on that in Norway. I think I am making a good impression here too. Playing time in a top flight is most important for any player to progress in their career.
How important is it to get three points in Dar es Salam next month? Do you think this Nigeria team has overcome the shock of missing the last AFCON
It is very important. We plan to build on the start against Chad and I think the right mindset, hard work and quality is there to qualify for the next AFCON.