Monday, July 05, 2010

Musa: Premier League’s New Cult Hero

It has been a 20-year wait for any player in the Premier League of Nigeria to set a new individual goalscoring record after Ishaya Jatau scored 17 goals to help Iwuanyanwu Nationale, now Heartland Football Club, win the league trophy in the 1990 season. In 2002, the duo of Joetex Frimpong and Victor Ezeji of Enyimba and Sharks Football Club respectively came close to setting a new record by scoring 16 goals each though the statistics for that season was dogged by controversy. Before the 2002 season, Olumide Harris of Shooting Stars Sports Club (in 1994), Christian Okonkwo of Kwara United (in 1998), Peter Ijeh of Julius Berger (2000) and Uche Okereke of Enugu Rangers (2001) came close to surpassing Jatau’s record but fell short by three or four goals.
However, two seasons after the duo of Frimpong and Ezeji came closest to Jatau’s record, Kabiru Alausa, then with Julius Berger, burst into the scene when he netted 15 goals but could not go any further. It meant the wait continued for a new record. In 2008, Enyimba’s Ezenwa Otorogu was touted to have the chance of setting a new record but he fell short of that target by scoring 14 goals before leaving the Nigerian scene for South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Last season, Akarandut Orok, now with CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, scored 17 goals for Akwa United with just one game to go. On June 14, 2009, the last day of the 2009/2010 season, as all eyes were set on the Oleh Stadium in Delta State for the tie between Warri Wolves and Bayelsa United, followers of the top-flight also had an eye and ear on the Rwang Pam Stadium in Jos where Akwa United visited Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) Football Club.
But once again, keen followers of the top-flight had to wait for a new record, as Orok could not find the target for his 18th goal of that season and unfortunately, a one-nil loss by Akwa United meant that the Uyo-based club was relegated to the lower division paving the way for Orok to move to Tunisia in a deal believed to be worth $5 million.
With the failure of Orok and et al in ending this two-decade old hoodoo, instead it is a teenager from Edo State that now has the distinguished honour of setting a new high in the Premier League. Ahmed Musa, 17, last Saturday at the Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi wrote his name in the record book of the top-flight in Nigeria when he scored his 18th goal of the season in 1 – 1 draw against Lobi Stars in a rescheduled league game. As pleased as Musa is with his individual achievement, the teenager still yearns for more. “I am really excited with this but I want to win the league too,” he told after surpassing Jatau’s 20-year-old mark over the weekend.
Kano Pillars’ head coach, Salisu Yusuf, told that he never had his doubt about the youngster when he moved from JUTH FC of Jos to his side at the start of this season’s campaign. “When I first watched him in training I knew he is a special player because he could operate from any attacking position on the pitch. One other thing that makes him outstanding is that he has the kind of speed I have seen in any league player in a long time,” Yusuf described the former apprentice of Aminchi Football Academy in Bukuru.
Musa, however, displays humility by deflecting the plaudits to his team-mates and coaching staff saying: “It is Kano Pillars that gave me the chance to become an important part of history in the Nigerian league and I must thank them for that. Also, the coaches and the players have played their part in this, and I am grateful for having such people around.
“The coach (Yusuf) is like a big brother and a father to me and the rest of the players. He was very good to me when I got injured this season and gave me enough time to recover well. Now I am happy that I have achieved this (record).”
Truly, it was the big brother role that Yusuf played this season in Musa’s career that led to the player’s explosion onto the big scene. First, Yusuf decided to allow one of his best marksmen in Bello Musa Kofarmata to join rival, Heartland Football Club of Owerri, in mid-season transfer window. The departure of Kofarmata created room for Musa to get a free role of roaming behind the point men of Pillars, as he played wide on both flanks and drifted into the middle when the opportunity presented itself.
Irrespective of how the season pans out for Kano Pillars in Aba in the title decider, Musa has definitely wormed his way into the hearts of Kano faithful, and in the weeks to come football agents would dangle deals before the teenager to move to one of the obscure leagues in Europe as the case had been in the past for top performers in the Nigerian league. 

July 3, 2010: Lobi Stars 1 – 1 (Away: 1 goal)
June 28, 2010: Wikki 1 – 0 (Home: 1 goal)
May 23, 2010: Dolphin 1 – 1 (Home: 1 goal)
April 3, 2010: Ranch Bees 1 – 0 (Away: 1 goal)
March 14, 2010: Sharks 2 – 1 (Home: 2 goals)
March 6, 2010: Kwara Utd 3 – 0 (Home: 1 goal)
Feb 20, 2010: Ocean Boys 5 – 1 (Home: 2 goals)
Feb 6, 2010: Lobi Stars 2 – 0 (Home: 1 goal)
Jan 27, 2010: Sunshine Stars 1 – 0 (Home: 1 goal)
Jan 24, 2010: Wikki 1 – 0 (Away: 1 goal)
Jan 17, 2010: Enyimba 2 – 0 (Home: 1 goal)
Jan 9, 2010: Gateway FC 1 – 0 (Home: 1 goal)
Nov 28, 2009: Tornadoes 1 – 1 (Away: 1 goal)
Nov 22, 2009: Ranch Bees 2 – 1 (Home: 1 goal)
Oct 18, 2009: Heartland 4 – 0 (Home: 2 goals)

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