Not much was expected of Sunday Mba when he made his senior debut in
the Eagles’ 0–0 tie against Angola in January 2012.
He was supposed to be one of many home-based lads who had trudged that
same path just to temper the longings of fans for more local league
representation in the national team set up.
His vision and invention in that game however impressed then manager
Stephen Keshi who gave him another chance at the cherry.
Mba lashed at it like a 60-teeth canine and scored a brace against
Liberia in his next game.
To the surprise of many who were not keen watchers of the Nigeria
Premier League, the on-loan Enugu Rangers schemer received a called up
to Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Still, even Mba’s staunchest supporters could not have predicted his
good fortunes at the 2013 AFCON.
While Super Eagles fans were expecting big performances from the likes
of Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa, it was Mba who achieved the
stuff of dreams and became an overnight hero.
Sunday Mba scored the winning goal in Nigeria’s 2–1 quarter-final win
over Côte d’Ivoire. And in the final against Burkina Faso, he scored
the only goal of the game, to hand Nigeria their third Africa Cup of
Such was his impact, aged just 25, that his compatriots could be
forgiven for dreaming of more national honours with Mba in the side.
Alas! How wrong!
After missing the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup despite being named in
the squad, Mba has not been to any other tournament for Nigeria.
Especially not to the World Cup in 2014!
Kind of remind you of the ultimate one tournament wonder: Salvatore Schillaci!
The Italian was an international greenhorn just weeks to the 1990
World Cup, making his debut earlier that same year.
He however became the surprise star of the 1990 FIFA World Cup, as he
helped Italy to a third-place finish on home soil.
Coming on as substitute in Italy’s first game, Schillaci went on to
score six goals throughout the World Cup, claiming the Golden Boot as
the leading goalscorer, and received the Golden Ball as player of the
tournament ahead of established stars Lothar Matthäus and Diego
Schillaci didn’t feature again for the Azzuris after 1991.
Sunday Mba is doing his best to do a Schillaci repeat.
Now playing in the lower Turkish league, away from the spotlight at
the age of 27 when he should be at his peak, Sunday Mba may never wear
the green and white jersey again.
And what a shame that would be.