Why Kanu is my best Nigerian footballer – Don Jasper
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Nollywood actor and filmmaker Okpara Jasper Kanayo, aka King Don Jasper, talks about his love for football, his favourite team and players, equal pay for male and female footballers and more, in this interview with PETER AKINBO
Did you pursue a career in sports?
Yes, I did. I played football a lot in secondary school; I was a midfielder. In fact, I thought I would become a footballer when I grew up.
So, why didn’t you become a footballer?
Well, as time went on while growing up, I found out that I had to switch to a different form of entertainment, which is acting, but I loved football right from my childhood.
Why did you switch to acting?
Sometimes, football doesn’t really give the opportunities that one needs. I was a good footballer but the major reason I left football was lack of sponsorship, which was why I decided to pursue a career in filmmaking.
Did your parents discourage you from pursuing a career in sports?
No, not at all. My parents were always supportive in whatever choice each of us wanted to make. They would not stop you from pursuing what you love.
Where do you think you would be if you had pursued football?
I think I would be the best player in the world because if I had an opportunity to be there, I would play better than all the footballers out there today.
Who do you think is the greatest footballer of all time?
I think it is the Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo because he was always above the rest. Now with his experience, I think he is still the best.
Are you a fan of the Super Eagles?
Yes, I am. I have a strong belief in them. I can only say they are trying for now, they are not playing to the best of their abilities, but they can be better. I think it is the situation of Nigeria that prevents them from doing better yet. I remember in 1994 when they had the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu, they played very well but nowadays, it is not the same. There may be politics impacting them that prevents them from playing like back then.
In the Eagles, who is your favourite player?
I think Kelechi Iheanacho is still my favourite player in that squad. I watch his matches and I think he always makes a contribution to the team. Either he scores or he assists or he creates good chances, he is playing well.
Of all time though, who do you think is the best Nigerian footballer?
For me, I would pick ‘Papilo’, Kanu is the best of all time, closely followed by Mikel Obi. From Kanu’s time in Ajax and Arsenal, he won the Champions League, and a lot of trophies in England, so, I am giving it to him because he won more cups more than the rest.
Do you think male and female national teams should earn the same amount?
Yeah, it is good because they are equal. I support them to earn the same pay, in fact, they should have always been earning the same since they play the same ball.
If you could spend a day with any sportsperson, who would it be?
Obafemi Martins, I really like the guy. I met him two years ago at Victoria Garden City on Lagos Island. The guy is very kind. I have had the privilege to meet Martins, Okocha and Kanu, but among the rest, Martins has a giving heart more than the others, he is really generous.
What club do you support?
I am a Manchester United fan.
And how are you feeling now as a United fan, with the performances this season?
I am fine. They are trying.
What are your hopes for this season?
You know, in football, you cannot predict. We hope for the best, at least let’s finish in the top four, let us go back to Champions League football, and maybe win the Europa League this season.
What do you think is the problem in Manchester United?
The problem in Manchester United is the coach I think. Erik ten Hag is supposed to know how to make substitutions, and how to fix players in the roles that suit them, so, I think the things they lack rests in coaching.
Do you think Man United beating Liverpool and Arsenal means anything?
Yes, he is still the problem. United beating Arsenal was only by grace, I watched the match. The coach is the problem from all the matches I have seen, the players aren’t the issue. He needs to put the players in the roles that suit them. I don’t think he plays them in their main positions. There are players that should play left, right and some can do both, but if a player accustomed to the left plays right sometimes, they don’t perform. I will prefer if the coach can manage some certain things, he will be okay. Fix each of the players where they belong and I believe Manchester United can win the Europa League this year.
Do you regret not going into sports?
No, I don’t. You see, as a man, when one way closes, you have to try different things to find a favoured path, so we move on from challenges.
Do you still hope to pursue a career in sports?
Yes, of course. At least, I hope I can help other people build their talents, train, and sponsor people. Those are the things I can do now.