Injury Jeopardises Martins’Â Russia Dream
After Super Eaglesâ€™ last two friendly games, preparatory to the World Cup, it was obvious that scoring was one area the team was having issues and the searchlight was being turned on Obafemi Martins. However, just as the voice for the recall of the former Inter Milanâ€™s marksman was becoming stronger injury knocked him out of what would have been his second Mundial for Nigeria, writes Kunle Adewale
Obafemi Martins is arguably one of the most travelled African players â€“having played in Italy for Reggiana and Inter Milan, in England for Newcastle and Birmingham City, in Germany for Wolfsburg, in Russia for FC Rubin Kazan and in Spain for Levante. In 2013, he move to the United States to play in the Major League and then to China to join the legion of Nigeria players.
For a player who had played for top European clubs, itâ€™s still a shame that his only World Cup appearance for his country was a cameo outing at the 2010 African edition in South Africa as injury did not help his course.
Just when many were thinking that Obagol-as his admirers loved to call him, might be part of Super Eagles party to Russia to help solve the teamâ€™s inability to hit the target, injury came knocking.
In spite of Nigeria booking a place to the 2018 World Cup with a game to spare, Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr is not blind to the fact that there are still grey areas as far as the teamâ€™s goalscoring capability is concerned and was quick to state that Martins, who has been out of the national team still stood a chance of getting on the plane to Russia in 2018.
The Franco-German tactician expressed his willingness to increase his striking options as the team continues to build up for the World Cup.
Rohr maintains that Martins and other Nigerian strikers who are hoping to be part of the World Cup party would have to be playing and scoring consistently to earn a call up and Martins, who plays for Shanghai Shenhua fits into that category, having helped his club to win the Chinese FA Cup last November, beating rival Shanghai SIPG, with the 33-year-old scoring in both matches of the two-legged final.
He scored the only goal in his team’s 1-0 first leg victory and also scored their second goal in the return leg which finished 3-2 in favour of SIPG. Although the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate, Martins’ club won based on away goals rule.
â€œYes, the door is open to all our best players, including Martins.
He is scoring a lot of goals and we need to get competition for all the positions, especially centre-forward. For now, we have Kelechi Iheanacho who is playing not all the time. But we played with Kelechi against Argentina and he did well. We have a lot of opportunities for the strikers, and so Martins, if he is scoring goals, will be welcome,â€ Rohr had said.
Super Eagles Captain to the last World Cup in Brazil, Joseph Yobo also lends his voice for Martinâ€™s recall, believing he would be of help for the Super Eagles in Russia. Last month, Martins scored three goals for his Chinese League club Shanghai and Yobo urged Rohr to consider him for a return to Super Eagles.
â€œI am not imposing players on Rohr, but I think the likes of Obafemi Martins and Austin Ejide can help strengthen the defective areas. They are experienced players and they know the in and out of Nigeria football,â€ Yobo said.
Unfortunately however, Martinsâ€™ dream of a second World Cup hit the rocks after he ruptured his hamstring playing for his Chinese club. A statement released by the club last Wednesday, confirmed that Martins will be out of action for six to seven months.
The Nigerian striker was forced out of their Asian Champions League game against Kashima Antlers of Japan which ended 2-2, due to an injury picked up in the 17th minute of the game.
Martinsâ€™ season has effectively come to an end, same as his dream of representing Nigeria at the World Cup following several calls for his inclusion by Nigerians.
Martins indeed had a successful surgery in England on his hamstring injury.
Shanghai Shenhua posted a picture of Martins in the hospital on their official Instagram and Twitter accounts to confirm that his surgery was successful.
Martins contributed a total of four goals for Shanghai Shenhua since the start of the new season in the Chinese Super League (CSL).
â€œThanks for the love, see you guys soon. One love. Keep the fighting spirit @shanghaishenhua,â€ Martins wrote beneath a video he posted on his Instagram page.
The late Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, in the twilight of his reign as the national team coach invited the former Newcastle of England striker but he was not convincing after two matches and that rested the clamour for Martinsâ€™ recall.
Martins was a part of the Nigerian team that finished third at the 2006 African Cup of Nations scoring two goals in the competition, both coming against Senegal in the first round.
On several occasions, controversy had placed doubt on his future at Super Eagles. In August 2006, the then countryâ€™s football governing body, Nigeria Football Association (NFA) website had his date of birth down as May 1 1978, which would have made him 28 years of age rather than 21. The NFA soon confirmed that it had been an administrative error and apologised for the confusion it had caused. However Martins threatened to quit playing for the national team after the blunder had initially put his move to Newcastle in doubt.