Soccer / Hungry for Success, Belgrade's Odita Says 'Draw Isn't Good Enough' Against Haifa

The feeling in Israel is that Haifa will win and book a place in the next stage of the competition.

A year-and-a-half ago, on the eve of Nigeria's crucial World Cup qualifier against Angola, a Nigerian newspaper called for the national football federation to throw all the "spoiled players" off the team and bring in in their place hungry young players who would do the job for the Green Eagles.

Among those young players put forward by the paper was Partizan Belgrade striker Obiora Odita. The Nigerian Football Federation didn't heed the calls, and Nigeria could only draw with Angola, missing out on a place at the World Cup.

Odita may or may not have made the difference, but at 23 he is still hungry for goals and hungry for success. So far this season he has scored seven goals, and tomorrow night he will be Maccabi Haifa's problem when it hosts Partizan in Group A of the UEFA Cup.

In an interview with Haaretz, Odita said that he and his teammates had watched videos of Haifa in action against Auxerre and Glasgow Rangers, in its previous Group A games.

"Haifa is a good team, a big name, not like Maccabi Petah Tikva, which beat us last year. They have good players. As a striker, I was especially impressed with Chilean defender Rafael Olarra."

There have been rumors lately that your 5-2 defeat by Petah Tikva last year was fixed.

"I haven't heard that, and I certainly don't think its true. From what I can remember, it was a crazy game and we missed like rookies; I personally hit the post twice. But that's history and what matters now is Thursday's game."

The feeling in Israel is that Haifa will win and book a place in the next stage of the competition.

"We need the points. We were unlucky when we were held to a draw by Livorno, but don't forget that we have only played one game so far in the group stage. I don't care what people think in Haifa; we are coming to win. A draw isn't good enough for us."

There is a lot of racism against Africans at European soccer grounds, especially in Eastern Europe. What do you think of it?

"Partizan Belgrade is a team with great supporters. In four years in Serbia, I never personally encountered racism, with the exception of one away game in Moldova. Our club has a history of African players [Cameroonian striker Pierre Boya also plays for Partizan U.D], but obviously it is an ugly phenomenom.

At Partizan they say that because our colors are black and white, there is no difference between blacks and whites.

Which teams do you expect to go through from Group A?

"I think that Thursday's matches will be decisive, because if Rangers gets a good result at Auxerre, it will advance and Auxerre will be in trouble.

I believe that if we get a good result at Haifa, then we and Haifa can go through with Rangers."