Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Nigerian league’s top scorers’ jinx

by Kunle Solaja

Why are Nigerian League top scorers always jinxed with the National Team.Can ahmed Musa change avert the "curse." Can he re-write history with the Super Eagles

Coach Samson Siasia will have his first competitive outing as Super Eagles’ handler later this month in the African Nations’ Cup tie with Ethiopia. He has already named a 24- team squad from which he intends to draw the 18 players for the game. Among the players is Ahmed Musa, the reigning hot shot of the Nigerian Premier League.

Musa topped the league’ scorers’ list last season when he put in a record 18 goals to erase the age-long 17 goals scored by Ishaya Jatau in 1990. Musa, like most top scorers of the past seasons, has since moved abroad, playing for VVV Venlo in the Netherlands.

If featured in the March 27 encounter, it will be his fourth appearance. His goal is still being awaited. Will he be the new Super Eagles’ scoring machine like Rashidi Yekini? It will be recalled that Yekini last played for Nigeria on June 28, 1998 in France and last scored on January 22, 1998. Thirteen years on, his 37 goal mark is still unmatched. The closest player to the goal mark is Aiyegbeni Yakubu who has 20 goals, 17 behind Yekini’s. Considering Yakubu’s epileptic appearances in the Super Eagles’ matches, it is doubtful, if he can surpass Yekini’s mark.

Back to the Nigerian league, it was only after 20 years of the professional league in Nigeria that the 17-goal mark established in the first season by Ishaya Jatau was surpassed by Ahmed Musa.

Since Musa’s feat, most football observers are hoping he would be the next goal scoring machine for the national team as did Rashidi Yekini. But the statistics on ground do not support the hope that the VVV Venlo striker will make big impact in the Super Eagles, prompting one to wonder whether the top scorers of the Nigerian league are under any spell not to perform at higher level. Worse still, they often don’t leave up to their ratings of the previous season.

They have mostly turned out to be “one season hot-shots”. Perhaps in the recent seasons, only Abubakar Babale of Sunshine Stars emerged the 2007/2008 top scorer with 14 goals and was in contention for the top scorer award in the 2008/2009 season.

Most of the top scorers have had difficulties breaking into the Super Eagles’ squad. It was only in 2009 that Joseph Akpala, joint top scorer with 12 goals along with Timothy Anjembe in 2005, scored against France in a friendly match. He has been struggling to get back into the mainstream Super Eagles.

Nigeria is therefore still in search of consistent lethal strikers. Take a look at all the domestic league’s top scorers, especially since the advent of professional football 21 years ago, a pathetic picture is painted.

Pace-setter, Ishaya Jatau who scored 17 goals for Iwuanyanwu Nationale in 1990, was not capped more than five times for the Super Eagles. He scored only once – the African Nations Cup qualifier against Republic of Benin, in Cotonou on September 30, 1990. He had earlier been called up to the national team that featured in 1989 ECOWAS Cup after he had performed well with his former club of the season, Highlanders of Jos.

His poor marksmanship at the ECOWAS Cup cost him a place in the team that later featured in the Algeria’90 African Cup of Nations. He returned to the national team and scored a consolatory goal against Benin Republic in an African Nations Cup qualifier. His many misses in the match did not impress Coach Clemens Westerhof. In 1991, he scored just six goals in the league before travelling to Cote d’Ivoire which was then the transit point for Nigerian players seeking career in Europe.

Jatau did even better than the others. Subsequent top scorers of the league from 1991 to 1999 couldn't break into the Super Eagles. For instance, Olumide Harris, then a young enterprising player of Shooting Stars scored 14 goals to top the chart in the 1994 season. Months later in January 1995, he was a shadow of himself in the Under 20 side, the Flying Eagles that crumbled at the African Youth Championship hosted by Nigeria. He did not score in a championship he was tipped to be the major attraction.

In a similar vein, Eddie Dombraiye of the then Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland) was a top scorer in 1998 after hitting the net 13 times. He was drafted to the Under –21 side featuring in the 1999 World Youth Championship to be the hit man. Like Olumide Harris, Dombraiye did not make much impact in the team and later travelled abroad to Poland and played for LKS Lodz. The top scorer for the 1998 Season, Hassan Minda of Gombe United was not even capped in the national team.

In 1991, Bendel United’s Richard Ojomo scored 12 goals to emerge the league’s hot shot. He was one of the two players of the season to have scored hat trick when he put in three goals in a 5-2 home win against Ranchers Bees in a Week 22 match. Gabriel Okolosi of Julius Berger was the other hat trick achiever. Ojomo who was already in the twilight of his career in the 1991 season did not even have a call-up into the national team.

Arthur Moses, a Ghanaian and the first foreigner to win the hot shot award of the Professional League put in 10 goals in 1992 season while featuring for Super Stores. The following season, he scored just three goals. He later moved to Europe where he featured for different clubs in France – Toulon, Olympic Marseille and Nimes. He got a couple of call-ups into Ghana Black Stars and featured in the 1998 African Nations Cup finals in Burkina Faso.

Tony Nwigwe of Iwuanyanwu Nationale who emerged top scorer with his 13 goals in 1993 also got a couple of call-ups into the Super Eagles. He, however, could not find the net. It was in this period that Rashidi Yekini was in his deadliest form and easily overshadowed other contending scorers in the national team.,P. The top scorers after him – Olumide Harris (Shooting Stars), Ben Agadah (Gombe United), Peter Anyilobi (Enyimba), Paul Kpougoul (Jasper United/BCC Lions) and Emma Agbo (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), Ibenegbu Okechuku (El Kanemi), Ameh Aruwa (Kaduna United), Abubakar Ibrahim Babale (Wikki Tourists/Sunshine Stars) and Akarandut Orok (Akwa United) – did not earn places in the Super Eagles.

Ben Agadah scored 12 goals for Gombe United to emerge the top scorer in 1995. He had moved into oblivion ever since. First he moved to Cameroun and then returned to Nigeria,likewise Peter Anyilobi, the Enyimba of Aba striker whose nine goals fetched him the highest scorer award in 1996. Interestingly the nine goals were scored in the first stanza of the league before the player opted to further his career in Germany.

Other players could not catch up with him. In Germany, Anyilobi first featured for FC 08 Homburg in 1998/99 season before moving to Pirmasens. Paul Kpoughoul played for two clubs: Jasper United and BCC Lions to emerge top scorer in 1997. His total of 16 was just one behind the record set by Ishaya Jatau in 1990.

Emmanuel Agbo scored 14 goals in 1999 for Iwuanyanwu Nationale and was called up for the Under-23 team preparing for the Sydney Olympics but was not firmly established in the team. Like other top scorers in the past, he had his eyes in Europe and later joined SW Bregenz of Austria.

The next hot shot to be in the Super Eagles was Peter Ijeh in 2002,featuring for Julius Berger in 2000, he topped the goal chart with his 14 goals. He ventured to Norway and resumed his goal scoring spree. Just one match as a substitute in the Super Eagles’ game against Jamaica in Lagos was enough to dismiss him.

Uche Okereke of Rangers who emerged top scorer with 13 goals in 2001 had just one cap, an away game against Zambia in Chingola and that ended his international career. In 2002, Victor Ezeji of Dolphins and Ghana’s Joetex Frimpong (El Kanemi) were joint top scorers with 16 goals each. Ezeji was capped only twice for Nigeria. First, coming as a substitute in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Angola on September 8, 2002 and another LG Cup match against Libya in Tripoli, where he scored his only international goal in a 2-1 loss to the hosts.

What then is wrong with the Nigerian league’s top scorers that they don’t live up to the standard expected of them in subsequent seasons and also in the national team? This is begging for answers!

Top scorers who failed to make impact in Super Eagles

1990-Ishaya Jatau (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 17 goals

1991-Richard Ojomo (Bendel United), 12 goals

1992-Arthur Moses (Super Stores), 10 goals

1993-Tony Nwigwe (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 13 goals

1994-Olumide Harris (Shooting Stars), 14 goals

1995-Ben Agadah (Gombe United), 12 goals

1996-Peter Anyiolobi (Enyimba), 9 goals

1997-Paul Kpoughoul (Jasper United/BCC Lions), 16 goals

1998-Hassan Minda (Gombe United), 14goals

1999-Emmanuel Agbo (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 14 goals

2000-Peter Ijeh (Julius Berger), 14 goals

2001-Uche Okereke (Enugu Rangers), 13 goals

2002-Joetex Frimpong (El-Kanemi), Victor Ezeji (Dolphins), 16 goals

2003-Chibuzor Ozurumba (Iwuanyanwu), Endurance Idahor (Julius Berger) 12 goals each

2004-Kabiru Alausa (Berger), 13 goals

2005-Timothy Anjembe (Lobi Stars), Joseph Akpala (Insurance), Charles Omokaro (Sharks), 12 goals each

2006 -Ibenebu Ikechukwu (El Kanemi), 10 goals

2007 - Ameh Aruwa (Kaduna United), 10 goals

2007/2008 - Abubakar Babale (Wikki Tourist/Sunshine Stars), 14 goals

2008/2009 - Akarandut Orok (Akwa United), 17 goals

2009/2010 - Ahmed Musa (Kano Pillars), 18 goals.


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