This is definitely the season of Nigerian striker Simeon Nwankwo, fondly called ‘Simy’ because he is still firing from all cylinders in the Italian Serie B for FC Crotone.
He will certainly be one of the contenders for a striking spot in the Super Eagles’ squad for the forthcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Egypt 2019.
About this time last year and precisely on 19th April 2018, Nigerian striker Simeon ‘Simy’ Nwankwo hugged the headlines following his spectacular overhead kick for FC Crotone in a Serie A clash against Juventus.
The goal was the talk of the town for several weeks since it compared favourably with Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning overhead kick in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final for Real Madrid against his current club, Juventus.
Such peculiarities have further enhanced the sterner stuff Simy is made of and the good news is that the Super Eagles’ striker to Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup is still firing on all cylinders
In this current campaign in the Serie B, Simy has so far scored 12 goals in 28 league matches for his side and he relishes the prospect of finishing the season on a high.
“It has been a very great experience for me in the Serie B,” said Simy, apparently still enjoying his baby-sitting duties, since his voice notes were accompanied with the caws of his adorable daughter Belmira Chimdezirim. “When we (FC Crotone) came to Serie B, I knew it was going to be difficult because it’s a new environment for me and, to be honest, I met on ground a very competitive league because the level is high.
“You have more matches to play and it is a tough league to play in due to the fact that we have a lot of players with Serie A experiences.
“This is football and everything is always challenging and one must be ready to play in the tough leagues and in the top football countries where the standard is high; and it has been a very good experience here in the Serie B.”
Of course, the tough gets going when the going gets tough and Simy has shown over time that he is of great refinement hence his scoring form with FC Crotone did not surprise anyone.
“Scoring goals is as a result of hard work and this can only come with consistency over a period of time,” remarked Simy who was the Portuguese ProLiga top scorer before he berthed in Italy. “So, one must be consistent in training as well as during matches. And I would say hard work and consistency pays.
“Of course, there are times you don’t score but you still have to ensure you work well and be at the service of your team.
“But at the same time as a striker, people would still judge you on the number of goals but I believe that once I work hard, the goals would always come, and that is what I’ve always done and I will continue to do.
“The only thing that gives me joy on the pitch is when I put the ball at the back of the net and I’ll continue to strive by scoring more goals in order for me to finish the season stronger and on a higher note.”
Described as one of the most intelligent strikers with FC Crotone, Simy enjoyed rave reviews in the ProLiga on his way to Serie A for his proficiency in front of the goal post and ended on the high as the top scorer with an impressive 20 goals.
“The 2015/2016 season (with Gil Vicente) was my best so far in terms of numbers goals I scored and coming to Italy for me was a step up in my career; so I had to take the opportunity of achieving my boyhood dream of playing in one of the European top leagues,“ Simy told our correspondent after scoring his first ever goal in Italy against Hella Verona in the Coppa Italia. “But honestly, playing in Italy is a different challenge for me; it’s totally a different environment but I’m working hard to settling down.”
Last year, he scored some ‘special goals’ include a text-book effort against SPAL.
“It has always been a good experience playing here in Italy,” he said. “I was so thrilled about that goal against SPAL because I was unlucky hitting the post in some recent games. I’d scored a couple of goals last year before injury took off the team.”
Incidentally, Simy’s current rich vein of form has coincided with the period most players are jostling to be part of the Super Eagles’ squad to the forthcoming African Cup of Nations Egypt 2019.
Last month, Coach Gernot Rohr said he was ready to look-in on every Nigerian player ahead of the trip to Egypt in June and there are reasons for Simy to be upbeat as one of the country’s best performers in the period under review.
He speaks further: “Of course, the national team is a dream for any player and I’m not indifferent to that. I’ve been there before and I know what it means to represent Nigeria and play for the Super Eagles.
“The coach is right (about invitation to the national team) and it boils down to consistency and performance; and he has to choose and decide what he wants.
“I think I have to work hard to get back into the team and this has to come with consistency and performance. I have to focus on doing well with my club and let’s see what happens. But the fact remains that I’m a Nigerian and I’m always available to represent my country.“
Days after his 26th anniversary, Simy, against all the odds though on the strings of some spectacular goal form with Crotone, finally got his first international call up ahead of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.
He was handed his international debut in the 1–1 draw against Democratic Republic of Congo in a pre-World Cup tune up match in Uyo and was subsequently named in Nigeria’s final 23 man squad for Russia 2018.He made his first appearance at the tournament when he came in as a second half substitute in the 2-0 loss to Croatia in Kalingrad and was also played as a substitute in the ill-fated 2–1 loss to Argentina.
Despite his cameo appearances in Russia, Simy who would be 27 on May 7 said that Russia 2018 was lifetime experience and a major fillip to his career.
“Going to Russia was great all around and playing at the biggest global championship was a special experience and a dream come true for me,” he admitted. “This has helped me grow in some ways and get me focussed for the best years of my career because I’ve been well exposed to the highest levels. “I’m so grateful I had the chance to be at the World Cup, but as I usually say, what is gone is gone and I just have to keep my eyes on the future.
“The beauty of football is that there is something new to work and fight for and I’m now looking at the next hurdle ahead of me, and this is just about it and I’m doing the best as much as I can,” he noted.