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Victor Osimhen and agony of missing Cameroon 2022 AFCON

By Gowon Akpodonor
04 January 2022   |   3:11 am
At the end of Egypt 2019 African Nations Cup, Victor Osimhen declared that the tournament was a major learning process for him and some other young players.

At the end of Egypt 2019 African Nations Cup, Victor Osimhen declared that the tournament was a major learning process for him and some other young players.

“I am delighted to have gained some valuable senior tournament experience in this competition (Egypt 2019),” Osimhen had told The Guardian at the Le Meridian Cairo Airport Hotel shortly after the third-place match between Nigeria and Tunisia.

Osimhen, who was then playing for Sporting Charleroi in the Belgian Jupiler, featured for just 45 minutes in the third-place match, in which Super Eagles won 1-0 to clinch a ‘golden bronze’ at the Al Salam Stadium, Cairo.

“Everyone, particularly myself, is still in the process of learning. It is on record I played my first AFCON here in Egypt in 2019. This is the biggest stage in African football and it is a massive achievement for me,” he said.

To Osimhen, Egypt 2019 AFCON was a stepping-stone for players of his generation. “We own this space, and in the future, we are going to dominate the African Nations Cup. So the experiences I gathered in Egypt will surely help me,” he added.

Since the competition ended, Osimhen had gone on to become one of the most improved African players.

In less than two years, he has become the talking point in football, not only in Africa but the world at large.

His power-play style of football, coupled with his flair for goals, has made him become one of the most sought-after players in European football.

Many Nigerian football fans had tipped him as Super Eagles ‘pointman’ in this year’s AFCON, but sadly, the Napoli star won’t be available for the Super Eagles when hostilities begin this weekend in Cameroun.

However, to a lot of analysts, the circumstances surrounding Osimhen’s non-appearance at Cameroun 2022 AFCON is uncalled for.

His Italian Seria A club, Napoli, had claimed that Osimhen tested positive for COVID-19, and won’t be released for AFCON games.

In fact, sports lawyer, Amobi Ezeaku, has written to Napoli to express his dismay at the club’s alleged intention to deny Nigeria the chance of having the services of Osimhen for the AFCON.

Writing through his Lexsetter law firm, in a letter dated December 31, Ezeaku, who is the Team Manager Of Enugu Rangers FC, stated that Napoli was determined to go to any length to deny Osimhen the chance of representing Nigeria at the AFCON.

“This would be on record for generations to come. How can you value a sovereign nation’s resource so much that you disrespect and disregard the nation’s right of use?” Ezeaku asked.

Pointing to the relevant FIFA rules concerning clubs obligation to release players for national team assignments, Ezeaku stated that subverting the rules would not paint Napoli in a good light, “especially considering the background that you have a large fan base in Nigeria.”

Osimhen had suffered a face injury on November 22, and Napoli doctor, Dr. Tartaro, said in a statement that ‘it takes from 60 to 90 days for the bone callus formation to heal.’

Ezeaku feels Napoli’s turn around to stop Osimhen from Super Eagles’ AFCON party is unfair. “Is it not interesting to note that few weeks after Dr. Tartaro’s (Napoli doctor) statement that ‘it takes from 60 to 90 days for the bone callus formation to heal, they are saying a different thing?”

“Maybe, they thought the injury won’t heal early. Now, a biological miracle happens and Napoli has fallen to some epidemiological tales. We shall remember the interesting role everyone played for posterity,” Ezeaku stated.

The biggest achievement for Osimhen last year was his emergence as the best African player in the French Ligue 1.

At 21, the Lagos-born striker became the youngest-ever recipient of the Prix Marc Vivien-Foe, named in honour of the late Cameroun player, who died at 28 in 2003.

In 2015, Osimhen emerged the Golden Boot winner at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, where he netted 10 goals.