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ON May 4, Super Eagles forward, Victor Osimhen scored his 22nd goal (without penalties) of the season in the Italian topflight and 27th in all competitions, making Naples a riotous zone of emotions as Napoli clinched their first Scudetto since the glory days of soccer god, Diego Maradona. The strike, which ended Napoli’s 33-year wait for the coveted trophy, was quite fitting, for Osimhen had been the biggest story in Seria A leading to the game, and that much was admitted by his ecstatic coach Luciano Spalletti. Now widely recognised as one of the greatest strikers in the world, Osimhen has taken Italy and the world by storm, producing some of the most mesmerizing displays that the beautiful game has seen with spectacular speed, athleticism and elite finishing, and there is little doubt that he stands in pole position to win the next CAF African Footballer of the Year gong, returning Nigeria to the pinacle of African football. He is poised to win the Serie A top scorer award, anyway.
To be sure, Osimhen’s story is that of a glory road paved with thorns. As we noted in a previous editorial, to say that life was hard for the young footballer would indeed be an understatement: his mother died when he was still very young and his father lost his job only a few months after. As a teenager, Osimhen sold bottled water in the Lagos traffic while his brother distributed sports newspapers. For her part, his sister sold oranges. As we noted, however, the story would change soon afterwards as Osimhen’s footballing prowess soon gained him a spot in Nigeria’s Under-17 team. Having previously played for a Lagos-based academy called Ultimate Strikers, Osimhen was drafted into Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets’ team by coach Emmanuel Amuneke. Nigeria, having won the Under-17 gong in 2013, were aiming to retain the trophy in Chile 2015. Osimhen did not only feature at the mundial but created a new world record, netting 10 times as Nigeria won a record fifth Under-17 World Cup gold. He won the Golden Boot and Silver Ball awards, and later the CAF Youth Player of the Year award.
Following his stints at German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg and Belgian clubs Zulte Waregem, Club Brugge and Charleroi, where he got his big break, scoring 20 goals and setting up four for his team-mates in all competitions, Osimhen made a sensational move to Ligue 1 side Lille for £10.6 million. Here, he became an instant hit, making history by scoring six goals in his first eight league games, the fastest Lille signing to reach that number in over 50 years, quicker than Real Madrid Galactico, Eden Hazard. But it is in Italy, featuring for Napoli, that he has made his greatest impact yet.
We have not found any reason to change our conclusion that Osimhen’s story is, by any standards, an inspiring one showing that with courage, determination and hard work, talent will always shine through, and that people like Osimhen are the real role models that Nigeria’s young people ought to look up to, not the deviant characters thrown up by reality shows such as Big Brother Naija and other aggravations. Osimhen is now the highest goalscoring African in the Serie A, breaking records previously held by former Ballon d’Or winner George Weah and Africa’s most decorated player, Samuel Eto’o. As a matter of fact, he has been given higher targets by the ex world best footballer who happens to be Liberia’s president, namely to win another Scudetto and lift the Ballon d’Or trophy. This is, no doubt, an ambitious target, but it is achievable with the right career choices, dedication and hard work.
If only for his Napoli heroics, Osimhen has already earned a place in football history. But the journey ahead is still very long, and he must, as it were, keep his head on the ground, read situations aright, and set realistic targets. In this regard, he must learn to take criticism, especially constructive ones, in his stride. For instance, his combative, insult-laden reaction to the observations by ex CAF African Footballer of Year award winner, Victor Ikpeba, during Nigeria’s failed qualification bid for Qatar 2022 was totally uncalled for. Going forward, he would also need to recognise the threat posed by racism and exercise circumspection in romantic relationships. Regardless of the best efforts of the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) and affiliate unions and organisations, racism remains real and resilient in world football, and so many influential personalities are not exactly enamoured of Black persons leading laurel battles. This is why Osimhen must be extremely careful outside the field of play. Besides, learning from many others before him, he must be strategic in making investment decisions.
We celebrate him and wish him greater career successes in the years to come.
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