By Ikem Aginam
This is certainly not the first time Ahmed Musa is coming up big for Nigeria on a Global Stage. Musa saved Nigeria from an early round exit in the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia which would have shocked 180 million Nigerians back home. Unlike the opening game against Croatia in Kaliningrad, Nigeria had to change the formation to a 3-5-2; three defenders, five midfielders, and two attackers.
Musa, one of the two attackers upfront, pairing with Kelechi Iheanacho, helped Nigeria to attack the solid defense of the Iceland team known as the Vikings. The Vikings looked the more dangerous and promising team going forward but it took a strong pairing of the “Oyinbo Wall” consisting of Troost Ekong and newly signed Brighton defender Leon Balogun to stop the physical presence of the Vikings attack in the first half.
The first half went by swiftly and Nigeria set a world cup record by not having a SINGLEshot at goal in the half. The last time this milestone was set was in the 2002 World Cup featuring South Korea against Algeria. The Nigerian head coach, Gernot Rohr, definitely played a huge role in raising the “Super Eagles” tempo and sense of urgency into Nigeria’s attacking style of football.
Finally, the breakthrough came from a Icelandic corner as central defender, Kenneth Omeruo, headed the ball out to Chelsea’s wingback Victor Moses who dashed down the right flank looking for his attackers. He slided the ball beautifully to Ahmed Musa who took a touch to dislodge the Icelandic defender to fire Nigeria into a 1-0 lead.
The Vikings kept pushing for an equalizer but Nigeria finally broke on their Classic Counter Attack with Musa using his quick pace to beat the Icelandic defender, turning around the goalkeeper to SLAM Nigeria’s second goal of the game. This killed the contest even though the young and talented Tyronne Ebuehi unintentionally fouled the Icelandic striker at the edge of the penalty box.
The penalty awarded by the referee assisted by the new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was eventually miscued by the experienced Icelandic midfielder, Gylfi Sigurðsson who plays for Swansea in the English Premier League. Ahmed Musa put himself in Nigerian Football History becoming the Highest World Cup Scorer with 4 goals for Nigeria, and 3rd in African History behind Asamoah Gyan, and Cameroonian Legend Roger Milla.
I still haven’t got to the point about Ahmed Musa! He is no national hero or superstar such as the likes of Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Jay Jay Okocha, George Weah, Abedi Pele, or the current Egyptian icon Mo Salah. But we can all agree that he is Nigeria’s World Cup Hero as he has replicated his sparkling performance in 2014 World Cup game against Argentina in the 3-2 loss by the Super Eagles in Brazil. So let’s dig deep into Ahmed Musa and who he really is.
Musa is 25 years of age and was born in Jos, the capital of Plateau State in the north central region of Nigeria. He currently plays for former Premier League Champions Leicester FC in England but currently on loan for this season with Russian giants CSKA Moscow. He started off with a local academy known as GBS Football Academy for 2 years before being upgraded to the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) on loan with Kano Pillars scoring 18 goals in 25 appearances. He represented Nigeria in the youth teams and later decided to pursue his professional career in Europe first with the Dutch side VVV-Venlo where he spent 2 years and scored 8 goals in 35 appearances. His career progressed when he joined CSKA Moscow scoring 42 goals in 125 appearances making it his best year as a professional.
Leicester then came calling for him as former boss Claudio Ranieri signed him and promised he would be part of something special with other Premier League stars Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. He sadly didn’t get much game time as he only appeared 21 times and scored twice for the Foxes.
It is no secret that the 2017-2018 has been rough and challenging for the Nigerian international star. Because of lack of game time at Leicester, Nigerian manager, Gernot Rohr warned Musa to move somewhere else in order to get a place in the potential 23-man squad for the World Cup. Musa took Rohr’s advice and opted for a loan from Leicester to CSKA Moscow.
His personal life has been eventful recently. He got divorced about 7 months ago which put him and his family on the spotlight. He has spoken about trying to give back to his community and he has done that by building a Fitness Centre consisting of a big football pitch in Jos. He has also built his own house in Jos. On May 28, he worked with authorities to free 40 prisoners, and donated money and food to less privileged people. All this done in one year for his country!
People see him as a truly genuine, friendly and nice guy, definitely not as arrogant as some ex-Nigerian Football stars.
Let’s get to the other positive things Musa has done to Nigeria. A lot of us don’t remember this but Ahmed Musa scored a vital goal in Nairobi to send Nigeria to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After a rough game in Nigeria that ended 1-1, The Harambee Stars (Kenyan National Football Team) had hoped to defeat Nigeria in Nairobi. This was not to be. Ahmed Musa had other plans as he beautifully chipped the Kenyan goalkeeper, scoring that wonder goal to send Nigeria to the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil. It is surprising how people still don’t talk much about him and Nigerians seem to forget his great accomplishments for the country.
Nigeria have the youngest average team at the World Cup, and Musa is one of the “Young Guns” in the squad. Ahmed Musa is a player who will be historically remembered for his pace and his attacking instincts that keep even the world’s best defenders on their toes. He has good finishing and his skill set is good while dribbling past his opponents. Even one of the greatest players ever, Argentine icon Lionel Messi has praised him numerous times as the two attackers have met on numerous occasions both for club and country. Ahmed Musa, hero and saviour, keep shining for club and country. I wish you the best in the future!
*Ikem Aginam, a Nigerian teenager, is passionate about football. He is interested in FIFA, and follows major football events including the leagues in Europe and African football competitions. He is a fan of the Super Eagles of Nigeria. He is currently a student of The International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he plays for the school basketball and football teams.