The Rangers man helped Nigeria qualifier for the last Mundial in Russia, and he is determined to see the country represented at the next edition in Qatar
Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun has disclosed that footballers go through unquantifiable pain when they miss out on being at the World Cup as they desire to feature on the biggest football stage more than fans.
Nigeria have only failed to qualify for one of the last seven World Cup since the country made her debut at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States.
But it was a painful experience for many Super Eagles supporters as Angola qualified for Germany 2006 ahead of the three-time African champions on CAF’s head-to-head rule.
There has not been a repeat of that ugly incidence since then, though, as Nigeria have made it to South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014, and Russia 2018 without hassles.
With Balogun in the squad, the Gernot Rohr-led Super Eagles made the 2018 edition with a game to spare.
The 2013 Afcon kings appeared on course for Qatar 2022 with three wins in three until suffering an upset defeat to the Central African Republic on matchday four.
But the Super Eagles returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over the same opponents four days later to keep their qualification fate in their own hands.
Another shock loss to any of Cape Verde Islands or Liberia could still see Nigeria miss out on making it to Qatar 2022, but Balogun insists the country’s footballers will give their best to avoid such an embarrassment.
The reason, Rangers ace explained, is that the players feel more pain when their World Cup dreams are dashed.
“If it is important for you as a fan who is not on the pitch but who is dreaming of seeing us play there, what do you think it means for us who are involved on the pitch,” Balogun told ESPN.
“You get the chance to play, and it gets stolen away from you. So you can imagine your pain [as a fan] is the pain we feel, but our pain is your pain times a hundred probably.
“You are probably still going to get opportunities to go to the World Cup, but we are going to be sidelined and watch it on TV, and that’s what hurts. So we understand [what it means].”
Balogun is head coach Gernot Rohr’s preferred centre-back partner for William Troost-Ekong, ahead of Leganes’ defender Kenneth Omeruo, Alanyaspor’s Chidozie Awaziem, and Hoffenheim’s Kevin Akpoguma.
The 33-year-old scored his first goal for the Super Eagles in the triumph over the Wild Beasts on October 10.