Steven Caulker excited by Sierra Leone captaincy

2 months ago 3193
Steven Caulker in action for Sierra LeoneTurkey-based Steven Caulker played in all three of Sierra Leone's games at this year's Africa Cup of Nations

New Sierra Leone captain Steven Caulker has thanked outgoing skipper Umaru Bangura and hopes he can learn from his predecessor as he takes on the role.

Former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Caulker only made his competitive debut for the Leone Stars at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

"I want to thank Umaru for what he has done," the 30-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

"He has done an incredible job in getting the team to where we are today and I hope that I can learn from him and still reach out to him for his guidance on leading the team to success."

Caulker's comments come after Bangura, who skippered the West Africans for over seven years, was upset about the way the change in leadership was handled.

The 34-year-old Neuchatel Xamax defender claims he was not contacted by the country's football association (SLFA) and only found out he was being replaced after receiving a press release.

"I received the news with shock and disbelief," Bangura told BBC Sport Africa.

"I feel I have been treated with disrespect because nobody discussed it with me. I only found out about it after people forwarded the SLFA press release to me. I'm disappointed."

However, Sierra Leone coach John Keister said he had conversations with Bangura regarding the captaincy prior to recent friendly matches in Turkey, and once the squad had arrived in the country.

Caulker took over the Leone Stars armband at the end of last month, and skippered the team to a win over Congo Brazzaville and a defeat by Togo in Turkey, as well as a victory against Liberia in a non-Fifa sanctioned game.

He says he was expecting Bangura to have been told about the decision to replace him.

"I would have expected Umaru to be informed before I was officially asked to lead the team," Caulker added.

"It's a question you really have to ask the coach or the SLFA president."

A SLFA official said its executive team was not responsible for appointing a new skipper, and that the decision would be made by the national team technical staff, headed by Keister in consultation with the SLFA technical committee.

Leone Stars captaincy 'comes with a lot of responsibility'

Caulker, who plays in Turkey for Gaziantep on loan from Fenerbahce, is hoping for a brighter future for Sierra Leonean football after returning to the Nations Cup for the first time since 1996.

"We are looking forward to the 2023 Afcon where we can showcase ourselves on the highest platform in Africa," he said.

"So the ultimate goal is to qualify for back-to-back tournaments and to go there and get out of the group stage and show the nation and the world what we are about.

"I believe the nation already knows what we are about, they've supported us for a long time and we hope to reward them with success.

"We also have the Olympic Games qualifiers to look forward to this summer as well with our slightly younger team.

"I want to be a part of all of these, be part of the building process of football in Sierra Leone, so it's not just about the senior national team.

"I want to see success in Sierra Leone on and off the pitch. So I take this role seriously, it comes with a lot of responsibility."

Steven Caulker in action for Sierra Leone against Algeria striker Baghdad BounedjahCaulker and Sierra Leone are awaiting the qualifying draw for the 2023 Nations Cup

Caulker made a single international appearance for England, the country of his birth, in a 4-2 loss to Sweden in November 2012 but switched allegiances to Sierra Leone last year.

His selection by the Three Lions came after he had played every single minute of Great Britain's campaign at the 2012 London Olympics.

He had a link to Sierra Leone through his paternal grandfather who is from Sierra Leone.

Caulker's appointment as captain comes just over three months after was cleared by Fifa to represent Sierra Leone, paving the way for him to play for the Leone Stars at the Nations Cup, where he featured in all his team's three matches.

He admits that he was surprised at the decision to appoint him as captain.

"It comes quickly to be honest with you but it's a huge honour and a huge responsibility," he said.

"I was surprised, but I think it was about the timing. With other players going towards the end of their careers, [while] some are in the middle-to-end, I think it's just a case of time.

"The coach went to me to come and lead the boys because of my experience. We have a young squad at the moment and they need someone with experience and I'm able to give them that."

Source Article