The mood around the club and its faithful right now is one of excitement, and rightly so. The victory over CARA Brazzaville, and the joy it fostered, was a fitting way to return to home for Enyimba Football Club.
In the end, a draw would have done to qualify, but it would have been an unsatisfactory way to return. Not with the stadium packed to the rafters on a weekday. Not with a truly superb surface to finally play on, after the horrors of Calabar and Port Harcourt. Nothing but a win would have done.
It was not a vintage performance, by any stretch. It should put paid to the idea that playing away from Aba has been Enyimba’s sole problem over the past two and half seasons. Let’s face it, this is not a great Enyimba side: in terms of quality, in terms of tactical nous, or even in terms of technical input.
However, what did for us on the day was a real shift by captain of the side Mfon Udoh—the legendary forward was not even at his best, yet he was instrumental in getting what was a hard-fought win.
What is most remarkable about Mfon, aside the record which he still holds for the most goals scored in a single league season, is that it seemed for a long time he would be unable to re-capture the same level. He suffered a serious knee injury that was not handled quite so well, and some of that was his own fault, in truth.
He made a comeback after about six months out, took on too much too soon, suffered a recurrence and dropped back out again. He is nothing if not determined.
In his time out, he seems to have added another feather to his cap too: the direct free kick. He hit the crossbar twice yesterday; on another day, one of those would have gone in. It requires a lot of practice to get free kicks right. The likes of David Beckham, Juninho, Alessandro Del Piero didn’t have the trajectory of a dead ball imprinted on their brains from the womb. So, to see Mfon come out of his injury “hell” with something new in his repertoire is a credit to his hard work.
It is not something that our players in the league do often enough. Too few take out the time to walk up to one of the coaches and say, “Hey boss, there’s a particular thing I’d like to work on separately from the group. Can you help me out?”
It speaks to a desire to improve, to be a better, more rounded player. Coaches have to manage an entire group, which in our league can be up to 40 senior players. That’s a brutal number, and unless you give them a reason to, they just want to be done with the regular training shift and go back to rest.
How many players will sacrifice an hour before or after training to perfect their free kicks? To work on their finishing? We have a plethora of strikers at the club who cannot seem to hit a barn door. Is any one of them concerned about this enough to do something extra?
It is a man’s habits that make him great. Mfon may have raw talent, but as the Scripture says, add excellence to your virtue. Yesterday evening offered us a peek into just what makes Mfon one of the greats.