Kunle Adewale reporting from St. Petersburg, Courtesy StarTimes
Super Eagles of Nigeria’s third-choice goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa who did not taste action in the three matches Nigeria played before elimination, all the same may have fulfilled part of his life time ambition. A sweat drained jersey of Argentine football legend, Lionel Messi to his sports library, if at all he has any.
According to English tabloid, The Mail, moments after the match at Saint Petersburg on Tuesday night in Russia with all the Super Eagles players yet to come to terms with the elimination of the team with less than five minutes to full time, Ezenwa was able to shroud off the disappointment to seek for the legend’s soaked shirt as a souvenir!
The paper stated that; “while there were no minutes for him to savour, Ezenwa did gain one valuable souvenir from his short time in Russia – Lionel Messi’s match shirt.
“At the full-time whistle there was a complete contrast of emotions. As the Argentina stars celebrated wildly on the pitch the Nigeria players laid still on the floor.
“Once the celebrations and commiserations were over, Ezenwa made his move, collaring Messi in the tunnel to ask for his shirt.
“The 29-year-old, who has 24 caps to his name and plays his football for Enyimba International back in Nigeria, appeared to have been the only player to ask Messi for his jersey.
“Having not played, Ezenwa had nothing to offer in return but Messi was more than happy to oblige and handed his shirt over,” it reported yesterday.
The Argentina superstar scored a stunning goal against Nigeria to break the deadlock – and open his account for the tournament – before Marcos Rojo bagged a late winner to book their spot in the last-16 of the World Cup.
In the pre-tournament interview with Thisdaysports in March this year, the third choice goalkeeper did not hid his admiration for the talented goal poacher during the last World Cup trophy tour in Lagos.
According to him, “it’s a career achievement to be face to face with one of the legend of the game on world stage and If I were to be between the sticks in the final group match against Argentina, I want to assure our teeming fans that I have the antinode to stop Messi in dead ball situations and to some extent other contending goal keepers can stop him as well,” he affirmed.
Super Eagles came within minutes of reaching the knockout phase after Victor Moses had cancelled out Messi’s strike from the penalty spot but fell just short after Rojo’s clinical finish in the box.
Argentina face a difficult challenge against tournament favourites France in the last-16 tomorrow at the Kazan Arena.