Born to a Belgian dad and Nigerian mother, FC Utrecht striker Cyriel Dessers has never hidden his desire to play for the Super Eagles. In this interview with ’TANA AIYEJINA, the 24-year-old talks about his career, parents and his undying love for the Eagles
How are you looking up to the incoming season?
I’m eagerly looking forward to it, I’m really hungry to return to action. I want to show myself, hopefully the coach will give me a chance to show it. I’m confident that if I play, I will develop and score goals. Hopefully the Nigeria Football Federation will notice that too.
This is your second year in the Dutch league. How would you describe the Eredivisie?
The Eredivisie is a league where they want to play beautiful football. There’s always a nice build-up from the defenders, good passing from the midfielders and a lot of dribbles. The football in the Dutch league is beautiful and attractive; you don’t see a lot of long balls or kicking the balls away
Do you think Utrecht can compete with the big sides Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord this season?
Yes, we can compete and win against these top teams during confrontations, like we did last season. But overall during the season there is still a difference. At the end of the season you often see the traditional top three Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord at the top.
Have you had interests from other clubs during the off season?
Yes, there were some clubs actually interested, but at this moment FC Utrecht don’t want to let me go. And I’m committed to giving my best to the club.
The NFF has opened doors to players with Nigerian roots to play for the Super Eagles. Are you still considering playing for Nigeria or would prefer to bid your time for Belgium, where you were born?
It would be a big honour to play for Nigeria and it would be a no-brainer for me. I was born and grew up in Belgium, but when I look in the mirror or to my character, I can see that I’m Nigerian/African. My dream has always been to represent Nigeria, wear the green and white jersey and put smiles on the faces of Nigerians. Hopefully, one day that will happen
What can you bring to the Eagles if you are invited?
Goals, that’s what I’m good at. There is so much quality in the Nigerian squad, but I hope to get a chance and then show how I can also contribute to the team.
Can you tell us about your connection to Nigeria?
My mother is Nigerian and I still have a lot of family members in Lagos. Nigerians are wonderful people.
How much of Nigeria do you know?
I know the country and what has been going on. I’ve not been there yet, but I want to go there as soon as possible.
You have a Belgian dad but you are so intent on playing for the Eagles. Did your mum convince you?
(Laughs) Not at all, like I said, it would be an honour. This is something I want and I would make both my mum and dad proud by achieving my dream playing for Nigeria.
What was it like having to watch other players at the World Cup on TV?
It was a pleasure to see guys that you’ve played with or played against on such a big stage.
How would you describe Nigeria’s performance at the 2018 World Cup?
They were so close (to advancing from the their group) but were also a little bit unlucky with the hand ball against Argentina. But they played good football, don’t forget that they had one of the toughest groups with Croatia who reached the final and Argentina with Lionel Messi.
No African team made it beyond the group stage. What do you think is the cause?
Like I said previously, some teams were close like Nigeria and Senegal as well, but sometimes you will need a little bit of luck. Africa is coming, no doubt.
What’s your impression about Nigerian players?
I see a lot of Nigerian players all over Europe, also in big clubs and big competitions, and I think that’s a really positive sign. That means clubs and people appreciate their talents and work ethics.
Who’s your role model Nigerian footballer?
I think that must be (Nwankwo) Kanu, he is a true legend and was world-class during his playing days. He was always a delight to watch, an inspirational personality. But when I was young, (Obafemi) Martins was also rising and I used to buy him on FIFA on the play station every time.
What was your childhood like?
That’s a funny story. As a kid I also dreamt about being a football player, but my parents always told me that school was way more important. So I did very good at school and was playing at amateur level until I was 16 years. I even went to university to study Law for two years, before I became a professional footballer. What I learnt from my parents was not to waste my talents and work hard at school and in football.
As a striker, what are your goals targets for the incoming season?
It’s dangerous to put a number on it, but last year I had 12 goals and five assists in 20 starting games, so I hope to do better this season.
Can you remember any crazy thing you once did on the pitch?
The craziest thing I’ve done was scoring a hat-trick in the final of the play-offs for promotion with NAC Breda last year.
Which defender has given you the toughest time?
That must be Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax. He is so strong, fast and mature for his young age. No wonder he has attracted interest from Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus. Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Branislav Ivanovic, formerly of Chelsea, is also very good; he can read the game very well with his experience.
Who is Cyriel Dessers?
This is a difficult one. Cyriel Dessers is a young man who wants to see the world, learn a lot from other people and places and enjoy my life as a football player, because it is a dream and a privilege. I have some dreams and goals and one of them is to become a Super Eagle one day.