Former Golden Eaglets goalkeeper Akpan Anietie Bassey has expressed his delight at returning to what he calls “an improved Nigerian league”.
14 years ago in Trinidad and Tobago, the then teenage Bassey was among the world’s best of cadet players from 16 countries that competed in the FIFA U-17 Championship, emerging the Best Goalkeeper of the tournament as Nigeria finished runners-up behind France.
Some of the players that went ahead to make global headlines in football featured in that tournament alongside Bassey and the famous ones among them include Argentina’s Carlos Tevezwho now plays for Juventus, Spain’s Fernando Torres who has returned to Atletico Madrid after a record transfer fee from Liverpool to Chelsea and his Spanish national teammate, Andreas Iniesta. There were many others including Brazil’s Diego, Mali’s Lanssana Diallo and FlorentSinama-Pongolle from France who floundered at Liverpool.
After stints in the domestic league with Bayelsa United, Kwara United, Sunshines Stars and Heartland, Bassey joined Vietnamese First division side Hoang Anh Gia Lal in 2011 until early February this year when he made a dramatic return to his former club Bayelsa United after the newly introduced home-grown specification in the Vietnamese league meant he was released by Hoang Anh.
After keeping a clean sheet in his first match to herald his 3rd stint at the Restoration Boys against FC Taraba on Matchday 4, Bassey went spiritual in opening his post-match interview with npfl.ng
“First and foremost, I have to thank God because he’s been faithful. He has kept me till this moment and I am happy that he has made me part of those that gave Bayelsa United its first victory of the season.” begun the Trinidad Tobago 2001 Golden Glove winner.
Some of Bassey’s colleagues in that silver-winning squad still strut their stuff in the domestic league which has made significant progress after he left for his Asian sojourn. Some others also drifted abroad and into football. oblivion. Those still playing include Joseph Eyimofe who is still very actively involved at Warri Wolves, Kennedy Chinwo, a fringe player at Dolphins while Richard Eromoigbe, Sogar Sambo, Omonigho Temile, Femi Opabunmi have drifted outside the country though occasionally returning to the domestic league as Bassey has just done to rehabilitate their career.
Of Eket stock in Akwa Ibom State, Bassey also revealed that the reason behind his decision to return to the Glo Premier League after his sojourn in Asia, stating that he didn’t think twice before arriving at the decision when he was released by the Asian club.
“I travelled to Vietnam for my professional career but unfortunately, they recently reduced the foreign players’ quota at each club in the league from three to two. My club like most others naturally prefered to have a striker to a goalkeeper.”
“And seeing that the transfer window in Europe has closed, I thought it wise to fall back to my league where I know I started and playing to keep fit. If any opening comes after, I will take it and if not, I will go on with Bayelsa. Money is not the issue here.” he explained.
The former Kwara United goalkeeper could not hide his excitement at the improvements in the league and commended the League Management Company (LMC) for making the league worth returning to with the recent introduction of the enhanced salary scheme and improvement in officiating.
“I must confess this is an improved Nigerian league. Firstly, the officiating is getting better and as you can see in this game (Bayelsa United vs FC Taraba) the officiating was 50-50. The better team should always win, that is the most important thing in the game.”
“Then secondly, the LMC has introduced the enhanced salary and I know some teams are already paying and I hope the teams try more to pay it because the enhanced salary is enough for players to take care of themselves. When the money is coming, the player will be able to solve whatever problem he has. That is how we have to advance and ensure our league is at the top.” he concluded
On Bayelsa United, Bassey is optimistic that his new side will fare better this season than the last when they narrowly avoided relegation. He is hopeful that Sunday’s win over FC Taraba, their first this season will galvanize them to improved performances.
“One thing I must say is that it is one game after the other. For now, we just got our first win in four games and I believe that we can step up our game with this and do well in upcoming games if the players’ spirit remain high.”