The rise of 'Ogbuenyi' Mba
The phenomenal turnaround that Nigerian International, Sunday Mba,
has experienced in the last 12 months is the stuff of which fairy
tales are made.
Mba wasn’t one of the fans favourites on the eve of the
competition, but the midfielder evolved into a national hero on
Sunday, February 3, 2013, when his brilliant goal sent star-studded
Cote d’Ivoire out of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Born on a Sunday, Mba chose a bright Sunday in Rustenburg, South
Africa, to write his name in Afcon folklore.
Sunday’s historic goal makes him the first player from Nigeria's
domestic league to score at the Afcon since Algiers ’90.
Back in 1990, former coach Clemens Westerhof left several big
names from Europe including current manager, Stephen Keshi and opted
for more players from the domestic league.
Rashidi Yekini, Andrew Uwe and Ademola Adesina were the only
Europe based players in the team and the Nigerian based duo of
Emmanuel Okocha (Enugu Rangers) and Uche Okechukwu (Iwuanyanwu
Nationale) put their names in the scoresheet.
Mba’s goal was made in heaven and scored in a superb form. Indeed,
there are goals and there are good goals.
But this was a great goal scored after the midfielder seized
control of the ball a few metres inside the Ivorian half and ghosted
past several markers before pulling the trigger at the edge of the
Football fans will continue to savour the goal which wrecked the
ambition of the Didier Drogba inspired side. Ogbuenyi in Ibo where Mba is from means Elephant slayer and thats what fans are now calling him.
The story did not end there as the match day performance of the
Nigeria Premier League star earned him the Orange Man-of-The-Match on
a day several big names from different European clubs were also on
Mba’s effort earned him applause from former Nigerian
International, Henry Nwosu, who won the Afcon in 1980.
“Mba’s goal reminds me of Samuel Okwaraji’s goal at the Maroc ’88
Afcon. The moment he got the ball and moved past the first Ivorian, I
told my friends he was heading for goal,” Nwosu said to
It’s no surprise that Mba’s former team, Warri Wolves are
contesting his transfer to rivals, Enugu Rangers.
From Boy to Man
It’s been a long journey to the top for Mba who was a member of
Nigeria’s Under17 team to the 2005 Africa Under17 Championship, in
The team under Godwin Izilien, finished third in the group stage
and failed to make it to the World Cup.
Turkey based Simon Zenke was also a member of that squad.
Unlike, Zenke, Mba has remained in Nigeria since the Under17
championship and wasn’t even considered for two years later when
Nigeria’s Under20 team campaigned at
the African Youth Championship (AYC) in the Republic of Congo and the
World Youth Championship (WYC), in Canada.
Mba was no where near the national team when players in the league
were assembled for the West Africa Football Union (Wafu) Cup twice and
was also ignored when the Eagles contested for the CHAN qualifiers.
Mba has played for Enyimba, Enugu Rangers, Dolphins and Wolves.
The NPL star is presently a subject of debate between Wolves and
Mba was in the Rangers squad that finished fourth during the 2007
Super Four contest.
Tough road to Afcon 2013
Mba’s journey to the Afcon started in January 2012, when he was
part of the Super Eagles squad composed of players in the domestic
league, that earned a respectable
goalless draw against an Angola side that has headed for the
2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
From Abuja, the team headed for Liberia, where Mba’s brace earned
Nigeria 2-0 victory over their hosts.
Interestingly, he was left out of qualifiers, but returned to the
national camp and against all odds earned a place in Nigeria’s Afcon
The moment Stephen Keshi announced Mba and five others (Godfrey
Oboabona, Chigozie Agbim, Azubuike Egwekwe, Ejike Uzoenyi and Gabriel
Reuben) in the domestic league for the Afcon, critics went to town
questioning the rationale for their selection.
Mba has been consistent since his Afcon debut against Ethiopia and
it appears Real Betis’ Nosa Igiebor may spend more time on the bench.
After all, nobody changes a winning team.
Wednesday’s semi-finals will certainly be another opportunity to
see Mba on duty again, but that goal has since announced him to the