Caulker hoping to lead Sierra Leone to successive AFCONs

Caulker hoping to lead Sierra Leone to successive AFCONs
Steven Caulker of Sierra Leone during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations

by Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Apr 06, 2022. 13:00

Sierra Leone captain Steven Caulker says he is hoping to lead the national team to successive Africa Cup of Nations appearances.

The Leone Stars ended a 26-year absence from the AFCON when they appeared at the recent tournament in Cameroon, exiting in the group stage despite holding heavyweights Algeria and Ivory Coast to draws.

Former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur defender Caulker made his Sierra Leone debut at the tournament and established himself as a key player for the national team. He replaced Umaru Bangura as captain, leading the Leone Stars in recent friendly matches against Congo, Togo and Liberia.

“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.”

On being selected as the skipper, the player who was capped once by England explained, “It comes quickly to be honest with you but it’s a huge honour and a huge responsibility.

“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.”

Caulker added that the team’s next major target is to qualify for next year’s continental finals in the Ivory Coast.

“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.”

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