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"I have a strong belief that we have the best team and we can win the K League 2" - Eduvie Ikoba

The race for promotion is well and truly underway in the 2024 K League 2 season, and Seoul E-Land finds itself among the contenders striving for glory come November. With a passionate fanbase, a structured team mindset, and a coming together of experienced players with their own unique set of skills and talents, Seoul is steadily climbing up the K League 2 ladder week by week.

This week, Michael Redmond sits down with one of Seoul's bright sparks so far this year, Eduvie Ikoba. The American forward has begun to make waves in the K League 2 and is continuing to improve week by week. Join us today as we delve into Ikoba's life in Korea, his time at Seoul E-Land, and his expectations for the side in 2024.

Michael Redmond(MR) asks Eduvie Ikoba(EI)

 MR: You have spent your time in the United States, Portugal, Slovakia and in Hungary. You even have a goal to your name in UECL qualification. Can you share some insights into the differences in playing style, tactics, or training methods between South Korean football and the leagues you've previously played in?

EI: I think that South Korea is a lot different than European football. Although Portugal, Hungary, and also Slovakia as well, all have different styles, I see that it's maybe a little bit more tactical oriented and not as physical as the Korean league. 

Even before I came here, I heard that the league was known for its physicality. All the players and all the teams are very fit, so you have to be willing to work hard to be successful here. In comparison with the US, I think South Korea is probably closer to the leagues in the US that I experienced just because I feel like your athleticism can really stand out, your hunger, your hard work really stands out here. 

Although tactics do play a part in how the games go, it really comes down to, a lot of the times, the individual qualities of the players. 


MR: As a foreign player, how have you adapted to the cultural and lifestyle differences in South Korea compared to the States or other countries you've played in?

EI: It wasn't so easy at first, because there's a huge difference in even the alphabet, the language of course, the mindset. So I tried to keep an open mind coming here. I wanted to embrace the South Korean culture and the Asian culture in general. 

So I'm just trying to learn as much as I can in the first few months I've been here. It hasn't been easy all the time, but I feel more and more confident each game, each training session with the team and also just every day I spend here with my girlfriend as well, we start to feel much more comfortable.

  

MR: What motivated you to join Seoul E-Land, and what are your personal goals for the remainder of the season?

EI: So I had known about K League, League 1 and K League Two for several years. And I always felt like it would be an interesting challenge. I had a friend who actually came to K League Two last season, the year before, from Hungary.

Chris Manzinga, he's in Seongnam now. He had really good things to say about the country and the league as a whole. So, it was something that encouraged me to take this step in a different direction than what I'm used to. He promised that it would pay off. I would grow in some way from it and also just get to experience a different part of the world.

I'm thankful that I was willing to take that risk and come because I see that people here are quite welcoming. I see that they're quite friendly. The culture in general I have a lot of respect for because I see things that really highlight the humility and the respect for elders. Things that I value as well.

So, yeah, it's been good in that sense. As far as personal goals I have, I really, like I said last game, I don't really want to focus on numbers so much. But I want to be able to give my best effort for the team to win, to gain promotion to the first division and hopefully to win the title in K League 2 this year.


MR: Could you highlight a memorable moment or match during your time with Seoul E-Land so far, and what made it special for you? 

EI: I think the most recent match, not the last match, but the one we played against Chungnam Asan that we won 5-0 was really memorable. Because I don't know if I remember it correctly, but I think it was one of the largest victories that E-Land has had as a club.

So it was really good for me to be a part of that group and to be able to score as well. I felt really welcomed by the fans during the match. Even in the bad moments I felt it, but especially in this moment I felt like I could give something good back to them and I really felt a strong sense of team chemistry.

I felt like we were all happy for one another to play well, to score and to have a success on the field. So I hope I can make more of those moments, but that game definitely stands out now.

MR: You are one of the four foreign players Seoul brought in this season. How is the friendship between you and the other foreign players and also how is your friendship with the Korean players in Seoul E-Land?

EI: I'm quite close with all the other foreign players. In general I'm really thankful because coming here I wasn't sure how it would be as a foreign player to connect with the Korean players and other foreigners if we speak different languages but I think regardless of the language barrier we've been able to communicate with each other in the best ways possible. 

The translators also help a lot, but even without them we make small jokes. Sometimes in Korean, sometimes in English, sometimes in Portuguese. So I'm thankful for that and I feel like there's a bond here that exists that goes beyond language barriers. I don't think you see that in all teams around the world, so it's something I really cherish. 

With the Korean players as well, a lot of the guys I'm lucky they can speak English. But even the ones that maybe they have some questions about words, I try to speak Konglish. I'm trying to learn Korean to mix a little bit of English with Korean. I ask them sometimes, how do you say something in Korean? And sometimes they ask me about English, so it's back and forth, but it's fun. I enjoy it and I really like my teammates as well. I think that they also feel the same way. 

It's hard to say about a best friend. I travel with Peter a lot because we live in the same area. We speak the same language and we travel to trainings back and forth every day since we live near. But I really wouldn't even say that there's one person in particular. I've now roomed with three or four of the guys on separate occasions. 

We're all pretty close in Thailand and in Jeju for pre season, so I really feel a strong bond. I can join and I can have a conversation with almost all of the guys without any issues.

MR: At the time of this interview, you have played eight games for Seoul, scoring two and assisting one. How do you personally feel your performance has been so far this year, and what is your goal for the remainder of the year?

EI: It's a little bit hard to judge myself because on one hand, I would like to score more goals than I have now. But I also have to be honest with myself. When I came, it was quite difficult to adapt in the first few weeks. Also, there were a couple injuries that I had at the start of the season. 

One was with my ankle and the first three or four games were quite difficult to play with. And then I immediately had another injury in my hamstring. I don't think that so many people know about those things, but I definitely felt like it was limiting my performances. 

So now that I'm healthy, I would like to just stay healthy and I think that if I can stay healthy and continue to play and build confidence, then I can show much more to the club, to the fans as well. So I have to be patient. I have to keep working hard, be patient and I know in time, everything is going to reveal itself on the field.

MR: How do you handle the pressure and expectations of performing well as a professional athlete, especially in a foreign league?

EI: It can be quite difficult if you don't have experience dealing with pressure but thankfully, I've been a foreign player for almost all of my professional career. So it's something that is not new to me. 

What I'll say is that it really helps when I focus on giving my best effort rather than on trying to do a certain goal because if you focus too much on some things, it can cause stress and you lose a little bit of focus on what's most important, which is helping the team play well and getting points. So I keep it really simple for myself now. 

I try to do the best possible and I know that at the end of the day, the results and the goals and the assists are going to come if I have that mindset. So I always think to that and I remind myself that I'm lucky to be a professional athlete, to do what I really enjoy and have a passion for. So it's not as bad as it sounds sometimes, dealing with the pressure. It's not easy, but it's something that I wouldn't change for anything.

KLU Patreon MR: What are your and Seoul’s expectations to finish in the K League 2 this season? Is there a sense of belief in the squad that the side can go and challenge for promotion?

EI: I think that it's generally agreed and understood that we want to earn promotion to K League 1 and for me personally, I'm 100% with this. I haven't seen all the teams in the league yet, but from the first few games that I've experienced here in K League 2, I have a strong belief that we have the best team and we can win the championship outright. 

I know that it takes a lot of work. It's more than just belief and talking. We have to show it on the pitch, which is not easy, especially over a long season. 

I don't want to sell myself short and I don't want to lie to myself. I really believe that we have a strong potential. I think it's a good thing because it motivates me and everyone else to push for that target. If we were not sure, it would be much harder to go for this goal. 

We would have to be realistic but I don't think that I'm being arrogant or overstepping when I say that I believe we have the potential. I guess it's just about focusing on getting the result each week.

MR: Is there any message you would like to give to the Seoul E-Land fans?

EI: I would just say I'm extremely thankful. There have been rainy games, sunny games, games at home, games all the way across the country in Busan. I'm really thankful for their support. It's something that I won't ever forget as long as I'm a footballer and as long as I'm here. 

I'm really thankful because they show a lot of dedication to the players and it really pushes us to try and give back results for them. 

I hope at the end of this season we can all celebrate together with a promotion, a championship and we can bring some good news to the fans in Seoul.

 

Many Thanks to Eduvie Ikoba for his involvement and Kim Ye-hyun for the recording of the interview.


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