Hatayaspor midfielder Fisayo Dele-Bashiru was impressive in his competitive debut for the Super Eagles last month, scoring the equalizer against South Africa in Uyo.

The 23-year-old talks about why he chose England ahead of England, the 2026 World Cup qualifiers and his time at Manchester City, in this interview with ’TANA AIYEJINA

You were eligible to represent England and Nigeria but chose the latter. What informed your decision?

I was born in Nigeria. I left Nigeria when I was two years old, so, I really don’t remember much about Nigeria. The decision to play for Nigeria is because it’s the country of my parents, and playing for Nigeria will make them proud. I have a lot of family here in Nigeria, so I just want to make everyone proud and that gives me motivation as well.

You scored your first goal against South Africa in a 2026 World Cup qualifier in Uyo. What was the feeling of scoring in your second game for the country?

It was a proud moment for me. Of course, I have been slowly introduced into the team and I have had to be patient and I am just happy that it paid off; I mean, the coach’s trust in me paid off. I am happy I made my family proud and a lot of Nigerians also.

How did you feel after the 1-1 draw against Bafana, which worsened the Eagles’ chances of qualifying for the World Cup?

Of course, I was disappointed with the result, the goal is to win as many games as possible, and with the squad we have, I think we have the quality to beat any team in Africa. We are disappointed that we didn’t get the three points.

You were fouled in the box in that game, which sparked calls for a penalty by the home fans. Do you feel that was a penalty?

In the moment, I felt it was a penalty, it was a very hard tackle and I still have marks on my leg from the tackle. In games like that, I feel there should be VAR and that should help the referees make the right decisions.

Some fans believe that your injury and absence is why our midfield couldn’t hold the forte in Abidjan, where the team were stunned 2-1 by Benin Republic. How did you feel about coming off injured against South Africa?

The injury was not too bad and before the game against Benin, I spoke to the coach that I’m not 100 per cent and can manage it, but I felt everyone needed to be firing on all cylinders. So, I didn’t want to let the team down, but overall, it is not a bad injury. Within a week, I had recovered.

In Abidjan, what do you think went wrong against Benin?

We started the game strongly and were 1-0 up, but from that point on, I think the team just lost concentration or we became overly confident that we were going to win the match, and that’s how we conceded the first goal. After that, the game opened up a little bit and again, we lost concentration from the setpiece and once a team losing goes 2-1 up, it will be difficult to score them.

Do you think we can get our World Cup qualification back on track?

Of course, I think next year we will have a whole year to work together, and we have some friendly games as well. And when we have the full team back, I am confident we will get on track.

The Super Eagles No.10 jersey has been worn by the likes of Austin Okocha, Mikel Obi and some of Nigeria’s biggest players. What does it feel like putting on that jersey?

Before going into a game, when you are wearing the No.10 jersey for Nigeria, it’s a fantastic moment. It’s a moment when you feel pressure, but not negative pressure, it is positive pressure knowing that you have to perform, and I think I perform better in situations where the stakes are high. I am happy I was given the No.10 and for the future, whatever number or role I am given, I will always be happy to play.

What is your message to the agitated fans after the disappointing World Cup qualifying results?

I will tell them just to keep calm, to trust in the team, and trust in the manager, and next year, I am sure we will win the games and qualify for the World Cup.

How did you feel when you received your first Super Eagles call-up?

Of course, I was happy I was over the moon. My parents were happy, and everyone else.

Was it easy blending with the other players in the team, knowing that you were coming from a different background from some of them?

It was quite easy. I can understand Yoruba and pidgin English very well also, I had a few friends in the team, and they helped me settle in smoothly.

On your debut, you had an assist against Mozambique in a friendly in Portugal last year. How did you feel helping the team to win?

First of all, I was happy with my performance. Before the game, I felt a little bit of pressure being an international match and not a club affair, so it was a different type of pressure again. So, getting the assist was very pleasing and also for the team to get the victory.

Few months later, you missed out on the AFCON. Were you disappointed?

Of course, you are going to be disappointed but at the end of the day, we are all a team. I was watching as a fan. I was supporting them throughout each match and I was hoping they would get the victory (in the final) but I guess second place is good still.

How did you take the final defeat to hosts Ivory Coast?

I was disappointed. I think Ivory Coast, I don’t want to say they got lucky in the tournament but sometimes people have luck and they ended up winning the tournament. However, I was happy with the team’s (Eagles) performances throughout the tournament.

Your brother Tom has also played for the Flying Eagles. How does it feel to come from like a family of footballers?

In a perfect world, I would like me and my brother to both be in the national team at the same time but I have no doubt that in the future, he will make it to the Super Eagles. Growing up, playing football together, we were bought by Manchester City together and he’s the one person that motivated me the most growing up. I’m happy we are both still playing football.

How has being a product of the Manchester City Academy impacted your career since you left the Etihad?

I will say initially, when I left for Sheffield Wednesday, it was difficult to adapt to a completely different environment. At Manchester City, you have everything, all the facilities, the infrastructure, you have over 20 pitches, a massive gym, the correct food, you travel and everything is on point. But I think overall, the foundation I have from Manchester City has given me the confidence wherever I go, from Sheffield Wednesday and now at Hatayaspor. I always have that self-confidence.

Are you considering playing in the Premier League someday?

Hopefully, if it is possible. Now I think my next step is to try and get into the top five or six leagues in Europe.

How much of Nigeria do you know in terms of the culture?

I think I know enough. I love the food, whether it’s garri, jollof rice, fried rice, eba, iyan and the music, I love Burna Boy, Asake, Ruger, Omah Lay and co.



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