Nigeria’s Sunday Mba’s beautiful run in the build up to his goal was jaw-dropping.
It was intuitive and brilliant. Darting past two Cote d’Ivoire players, he unleashed a 20-yard shot that was aided by a deflection and into the back of the net. It was an exceptional run and one timed to perfection.
Mba advertised himself and the Nigerian Premier League in the best possible way. Within minutes he was already trending on social network site, Twitter. The goal did not only turn out to be the match winner, it put a final end to Ivorian captain, Didier Drogba’s quest to win the African Cup of Nations.
The 25-year old Rangers of Enugu midfielder was named the Most Valuable Player after the match, an accolade that was well deserved.
He shone alongside another home based player, Godfrey Oboabona of Sunshine Stars. Oboabona staked a claim to be a permanent fixture in the Super Eagles team after taking the place of Captain Joseph Yobo to take on tournament favourite, Cote d’Ivoire.
He was solid and defiant in defence. He stood well against Drogba and Gervinho; closing them down and blocking potential goal-scoring chances.
The duo performed brilliantly to save coach Stephen Keshi’s job and they did save his blushes.
Keshi too must be commended for sticking with six home based players which includes Warri Wolves Azubuike Egwuekwe, Reuben Gabriel Kano Pillars, Chigozie Agbim and Ejike Uzoenyi of Enugu Rangers.Hundreds of home-based players can dare to dream of playing for the Super Eagles and even in Europe. Like the North African leagues, Nigerians will start to take home-based players more seriously but they too must use the opportunity presented to them.
Nigeria will now play Mali, who eliminated the hosts South Africa on penalties on Saturday in Durban.
Keshi is hopeful that Mba’s performance will shut his critics and prove his decision to stick with home-based players a wise one.
“It’s a pity the kind of country I come from. They are impatient with local based players, they prefer professionals,” he said.
Born in Aba, Abia State, Mba’s first international goal will last long in the memories of Nigerians especially the advocates of local based players.
Mba began his football at Pepsi Football Academy that in 2004. He signed his first professional contract a year later with Enyimba.
After two seasons with Enyimba, he joined Enugu Rangers but his stay was short-lived and he went back to Enyimba.
His second stint at Enyimba was not better than his first.
After one season he transferred back to Enugu Rangers then he moved to Dolphins and Warri Wolves after spending one season each.
His romance with Enugu Rangers seems to have no end in sight and in 2013 he signed again with Rangers.