After helping Rangers International of Enugu to win 2018 Aiteo Cup for the first time in thirty-five years, brila.net’s Oluwaseyi Alao caught up with Kelvin Itoya to discuss his journey into the round leather game, the feeling of winning the arguably the greatest final in the history of Aiteo Cup and his future plans.
Here is the exclusive interview.
Hello, can we meet you ?.
Kelvin Itoya: My name is Kelvin Itoya, a professional footballer and I’m from Delta State.
Your education and family background ?.
Kelvin Itoya: I am a graduate of Delta State University and I am the first child of my parents.
What did u study in the university ?.
Kelvin Itoya: Studied human kinetics
Tell us about your journey into football.
Kelvin Itoya: It started as a little boy playing oranges and what we call “bouncing ball” around with neighbours. Football was part of me from the beginning, then joined an academy “Cherry United” then and were just playing in organized tournaments as U-12/13 then.
At what point did you take the decision of playing the game professionally?.
Kelvin Itoya: That was when Coach Bob Tosan Blankson came to handle the Delta State University team and there was a tournament in town then and he happened to handle my team in d final game, It was from that moment he told me I could make a living out of football and instilled that mentality into me.
So how did you manage to combine football with academic ?.
Kelvin Itoya: Its stressful to combine academics with football as a career because one needs time to study but in life whatever u do, the mindset matters. So I was determined to have my degree and also stick to my football career.
Did you represent Delta state at any level ?.
Kelvin Itoya: Yes, I was opportune to represent Delta State in d football event and the National Sports Festival tagged EKO 2012 where I emerged the top scorer of the competition with 7goals. And we won the bronze medal that year.
Let’s talk about your journey into the Nigeria professional football league. Your experience so far?
Kelvin Itoya: Very interesting experience, I came into the NPFL when Warri Wolves was tagged the Man City of Nigeria bcos it was star-studded and it helped me a lot. So the journey so far has been very interesting.
Tell us about your time with Warri Wolves?.
Kelvin Itoya: Warri Wolves made me bcos I was given a different mentality and I was opportune to be in d midst of senior players who helped me out with understanding the game when it comes to the professional level and one person who really made settle in fast was Kola Anubi. So I can’t say anything about my career without mentioning Warri Wolves
Warri Wolves are in NNL now.
Kelvin Itoya: Not a good one at all…A brand like Warri Wolves doesn’t belong to the NNL.
Now to Rangers, When did you join the team ?.
Kelvin Itoya: I joined Rangers mid-season of the 2016/2017 season, Rangers is a traditional team and one of the oldest teams in d country… When I had the offer to come to join them, I couldn’t think twice but to accept.
And is the Club meeting your expectations?
Kelvin Itoya: Players expectations are being met as a matter of urgency. The fans are very supportive, likewise the government.
You guys won the Aiteo Cup Final against Kano Pillars in a spectacular fashion. Can you share the feelings with us ?.
Kelvin Itoya: Very fascinating feeling, a very special feeling. the way and manner with which we won is a miracle made in heaven, it was a victory made in heaven.
Two goals down at halftime, what was the reaction of Coach Gbenga Ogunbote in the dressing room?.
Kelvin Itoya: The coach in the person of Ogunbote is a father figure, he has a way of putting fire into our bones. when you are down in a cup final by 2 goals, you expect all hell to be set lose but he kept his cool and said we have done it before and we can still do it again that he believes in us. And when I wanted to go in, he said, go in there and make the difference.
At 3-0 to Kano Pillars, with twenty-five minutes left. Did you ever think Rangers could come back?
Kelvin Itoya: I came into the game and told my teammates to wake up bcos it was as if we were sleeping and we kept pushing. When I eventually scored the first goal,I knew the moment is finally here and that goal gave us more strength and willpower to keep pressing and we didn’t give up hope at all.
I know you have been watching the goal over and over again. Can you describe the technique behind it?.
Kelvin Itoya: That is the best goal I have scored for now and I can’t stop watching it every time…I came into the game very annoyed and I guess it was why I took that shot from that distance.
Rangers tie Coach Ogunbote to a new contract. Your reaction to that ?.
Kelvin Itoya: Ogunbote is the kind of coach every club should have so Rangers have done well tying him down.
Rangers are participating in CAF Confederations Cup next season. What should Nigerians be expecting ?.
Kelvin Itoya: Nigerians should support Rangers with prayers and expect that Rangers will not let them down.
The Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr believes in foreign-based players, do you think that’s fair to lads playing at home ?.
Kelvin Itoya: The coach has his reasons and his choice of players so whatever he does, we will keep supporting the Super Eagles.
Do you think NPFL players has what it takes to play for the Super Eagles?.
Kelvin Itoya: Yes of course, NPFL players have what it takes to play for the super eagles, its just the coaches choice.
You won the Aiteo Cup already, what’s next for Kelvin Itoya ?.
Kelvin Itoya: For now,i am enjoying the moment with my family…we will see what will happen in the next few couple of days.
The transfer window is on Any club making an inquiry about you ?.
Kelvin Itoya: I have been approached by clubs but like I said, I am currently enjoying the moment, but in d next couple of days I will listen and weigh the options and see what’s next.
So it is possible you leave Rangers?
Kelvin Itoya: Nothing is impossible.
Every player’s dream is to play abroad, Is Kelvin Itoya an exception?.
Kelvin Itoya: Kelvin Itoya is not an exception, I will keep working hard and I believe and trust in God that it will come at the right moment.
Your prefer league?
Kelvin Itoya: Anywhere God directs me, I will follow.
Thank you Kelvin Itoya for talking to us.
Kelvin Itoya: Thank you for having me, it’s my pleasure.