It has been six and a half years since the Watford defender made his international debut for the three-time Afcon champions, and he still relishes every moment of the experience
William Troost-Ekong has revealed some of the beautiful reasons he finds it ‘special’ to play for the Super Eagles.
Troost-Ekong was born in the Netherlands and schooled in England, playing severally for the Dutch U-19 and U-20 teams. Still, he decided to represent Nigeria, where his father was born, at the international level.
It is a decision he has had no reason to regret as he has a 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medal and a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations bronze medal to show for his endeavours and sacrifices.
The former Udinese defender also represented Nigeria at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. At that tournament, a Gernot Rohr-led Super Eagles were unlucky not to make it out of a group that had eventual runners-up Croatia, Argentina, and Iceland.
Beyond the medals and the high-profiled matches, though, is a brotherhood forged with other Super Eagles stars in the years since his debut on June 13, 2015.
Troost-Ekong confesses that he enjoys the laughs, the dedication, and the togetherness shared among his international teammates that forge the Super Eagles into ‘one big family.
“Everyone is willing to go the extra mile, which I think is amazing,” the 28-year-old told the BBC.
“We understand the challenges that are in front of us, but we all try to support each other.
“And when it’s time to crack a joke, we know when to do that as well. There’s a brotherhood in the team. Every day is exciting. It feels like one big family.”
The pressure that comes with playing for one of Africa’s most successful sides, the Super Eagles, is enormous and could be crippling for the weak-minded.
The continent’s most populous nation has very demanding fans who want the Eagles to win by large margins while offering a swashbuckling style of football every time they step onto the pitch.
Troost-Ekong is aware of this extraordinary demand, but he reveals it only serves as motivation and is a source of pride for him and his brothers in the national team.
“It’s not just about us; it’s about the whole of Nigeria,” he added.
“We know there’s 200 million people at home that will want us to give our heart and soul when we play. Whenever we play, everything stops in Nigeria for 90 minutes. And everybody watches the game.
“It’s good pressure, and we use that to motivate us. There’s that moment when you’re walking out, and you understand the magnitude of being able to wear the shirt. That’s something really special.”
Troost-Ekong will have a chance to add to his medal cabinet when the Super Eagles begin their hunt for a fourth continental crown at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
The three-time Afcon kings have returned with a medal in 15 of their previous 18 appearances at the continental championship.