Popular Nigeria gospel artiste, Laolu Gbenjo, talks about his love for Chelsea, his love for ex-Eagles internationals, his disappointment after Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, and more in this interview
How do you cool off whenever you are not performing at a concert or in the studio?
That is the most difficult question to ask me because the time is usually not there but I just try to create time and relax during the week and I just try to watch football whenever I can.
Which football club do you support?
I am a Chelsea fan and that’s because I love everything about the club, I love their style of play and their philosophy. I can say it anywhere that I am a Chelsea and I don’t belong to the slow team called Arsenal.
Don’t you think Arsenal fans will be offended by this?
They will be fine because they are noisemakers already and I know they say Chelsea fans are noisemakers but the truth is they are actually the noisemakers.
Chelsea will finish ahead of Arsenal on the Premier League log. Do you think…
(Cut in) That goes to show that we are better than them. Chelsea is a better club compared to Arsenal because we don’t waste time and we have the results to show for it over the years, unlike Arsenal that have not won the Premier League in how many years and are yet to win the Champions League as well. But I still don’t know why people still support the club and I think it is a spiritual attack. When a club is not giving you results, nothing to show forth as a supporter and you are still ticking to the club and every weekend they keep having malaria and heartache all because of the club then they are under spell because that can’t be ordinary.
Will you abandon Chelsea when they are no longer doing well?
Chelsea will continue to do well because there is a structure on the ground that will continue to make them do well. Arsenal’s problem started a long time ago when Arsene Wenger was still the manager and they are still following his pattern.
How long have you been supporting Chelsea?
I started supporting the club during the era of (Didier) Drogba, Mikel Obi and Jose Mourinho. I like the blend of Africans and Europeans in the club. It is something I really cherished.
What was your reaction when The Blues got knocked out of the Champions League?
I didn’t react much but I am not the do-or-die kind of fan. I watch football and support Chelsea just to catch fun and not to get myself hurt or depressed.
What do you think the future holds for Chelsea?
This season wasn’t really something great but I am sure that next season we will win the league.
How great is your fondness for the Super Eagles?
It is not that great but I only watch their game once in a while especially when I have the time to do that.
When was the last time you watched the Eagles play?
It’s been a while since I watched the Nigeria national team play.
Who is your favourite Eagles player of all time?
I have two actually and they are (Nwankwo) Kanu and Austin Okocha. These two guys are out of this world and their styles of play are so unique. The skills that Kanu possesses cannot be described and you can’t just help but to fall in love with him. As for Okocha, his dribbling skills are superb and one thing they both have in common is the fact that they are very entertaining.
Do you agree with the saying that we are yet to replace these two guys on our national team?
That’s very true. We have not been able to find a replacement for them and I am not sure we can see people who can ever be like them.
How do you feel knowing that Nigeria will not be at the next World Cup in Qatar?
I really feel bad but the whole blame should be put on the Nigeria Football Federation because there was not enough preparation for the boys. I am very sure that if there was enough and adequate preparation, we would not have suffered such elimination from the World Cup.
Personally, what was your growing up like when it comes to sports?
I played street football when I was growing up and I was a goalkeeper. Actually, I was a very good goalkeeper and I used to catch anything. It was something I was very good at back then even though I cannot say the same right name.
Why abandon being a goalkeeper to becoming a gospel artist?
Let’s simply say it just happened after I find my purpose and this was around 1998.
Before you abandon the dream of becoming a goalkeeper, were you ever scolded by your parent?
(Laughs) It was actually my grandmother that beat the hell out of me, she was always dealing with me whenever I went to play football. My grandmother would not do anything as at the time you offended her or went to play football, rather she would wait until midnight when I would be fast asleep and wake me up with a whip. The funniest thing is that despite the flogging I would still go back to the field the next day and play football. This is a normal thing for your kids growing up back then.
Parents these days encourage their children to play football. What has changed?
Right now, there is a lot of money involved in playing football and that’s why a lot of parent wants their children to play football. Most of the boys and girls playing football now are doing so because of the money involved and not because of their passion for the game. Some parents go as far as narrating how much a certain player is earning and would want the same for their kids too.
Will you encourage your kids to play football?
I will definitely encourage them to play football if that is what they want, both the boy and the girl I will back them to do so as long as it is something they have passion for and want to do and hopefully may represent the country.
You said you would love them to represent Nigeria, should another country come calling what will be your advice to them?
I believe by that time they would have come of age and be able to make decisions for themselves because I am not the type that will influence my children’s decisions. I won’t force them to do what they ordinarily would not want to do because this is what used to happen in the past but time has changed and we cannot continue to live in that age.