It took erstwhile Super Eagles Coach Samson Siasia, several trips to England before he could convince Victor Moses to don the colours of the Super Eagles and the former national team gaffer took it upon himself to struggle for his papers that will make him eligible to play for Nigeria be released by the British FA to the world football body FIFA having earlier starred for England at the junior category. The former Wigan Athletics winger indeed justified the trust bestowed on him as he led Eagles to a number of victories, the height being the 2013 AFCON. He however shocked soccer loving Nigerians on Wednesday as he announced his retirement from international football. Kunle Adewale chronicles his time with the national team and the vacuum his retirement might have left
Nigeria soccer fans first saw a glimpse of what Victor Moses had to offer after he grabbed a brace for Nigeria’s 6-1 demolition of the Lone Star of Liberia in a Africa Cup of Nations qualifier and he said afterwards: “It was a big result and I am happy to be part of the team. I am happy that we have made it to the Nations Cup. It has been my dream to play at the Nations Cup and now that we have qualified, I can say I am happy and it is a dream come true. I will continue to play for Nigeria because it is my country and I love the people of Nigeria so much.”
His time with the national time would only last for six years as the Chelsea wing back on Wednesday shocked Nigeria soccer fans when he announced his retirement from international football after playing 37 matches and scoring 12 goals for Nigeria.
Moses made it known on his social media account that he will play no part wearing the green and white colours of Nigeria after he joined the national team in 2012 since switching allegiance from England to Nigeria.
He thanked those who have supported him in his career and was grateful to Nigerians for believing in him over the years.
“I would like to announce that after much thought, I have made the decision to retire from playing international football. I have experienced some of the best moments of my life wearing the Super Eagles shirt and have memories with me that will last a lifetime. Nothing will ever compete to what it felt like to represent Nigeria on behalf of our country.
“However I feel that now is the right time to step away in order to be able to focus fully on club career and my young family as well as to allow the next generation of Super Eagles stars the opportunity to step up and to flourish.
“We are blessed as a nation to have so many exciting young players coming through and now is their time.
“I have already spoken to the manager by telephone and would like to say thank you to him and his staff, the NFF and all of my teammates for all of their support over the years.
“Most importantly I would like to say thank you to the Nigerian people for believing in me and supporting me over the years. It’s meant the world to me and my family and I will always be a proud Nigerian supporting the team.
“Thank you for the memories and good luck to the team for the future,” he wrote.
The 2013 AFCON success will remain Moses’ crowning moment on the world stage. With Nigeria struggling to remain in the competition after a lacklustre start to the competition, he earned and scored two penalties against Ethiopia to send the Super Eagles into the knockout stages, where they defeated the Ivory Coast and Mali to reach the final, with Moses at the heart of proceedings.
With a reported 170 million Nigerians watching on televisions back home, Moses truly became a Super Eagle when he helped Nigeria beat Burkina Faso 1-0 to claim the trophy, his first taste of success of a fine career at club and international level.
“What he has achieved since has been phenomenal. We always knew he could play in the Premier League, but to be playing for one of the top clubs in the country is fantastic for him. I think it’s a great advert for our academy,” Crystal Palace’s academy director Gary Issott said.
On August 23, 2012, Wigan Athletic accepted a fifth bid from Chelsea, after they finally met Wigan’s asking price after four previously unsuccessful bids. The player was given permission to speak with Chelsea. The next day Chelsea announced that the transfer of Moses had been.
However, as a result of not having enough playing time, he was sent on a season loan to rivals, Liverpool, in September 2013, then shipped to Stoke City and West Ham the following seasons. But with the arrival of Antonio Conte at Stamford after the sack of Jose Mourinho, Moses found a new lease of life.
Moses admitted that he always hoped to play regularly for a big club like the Blues, but struggled to make any impact on the first team at Stamford Bridge until Conte arrived with his 3-4-3 formation which brought the best out of the 27-year-old.
“I’ve always wanted to play for this big club, it’s one of the best clubs in the world at the moment and I’m enjoying every single minute. I just want to keep on working hard and helping my team-mates out,” he told Chelsea’s official website.
On why he has not been able to pin a shirt at Chelsea before the arrival of Conte, former Nigeria international Paul Okoku in a telephone chat with THISDAY said, Moses was reaping the hard work and effort at improving his game while on loan.
“It was not that Conte just woke up and decided to be playing Moses. He had definitely seen him play during his loan spell and knew he suits his style of play. Moreover, Moses too had put in so much effort to improve his game and that is what he is enjoying today,” Okoku said.
During the 2017 season, he scored three goals in 34 appearances for Chelsea to clinch their sixth Premier League crown. “He makes a huge difference. With the system they play with wing-backs, he’s taught himself – and the manager’s obviously helped him to be one of the best wing-backs in world football. It suits him that position… he is top class,” former England star Jamie Redknapp said.
Moses himself rated winning the league as his greatest achievement.
He however played an even bigger role for Nigeria to make it to their sixth World Cup finals as he scored thrice and in general inspired a young Super Eagles team to play out of their skin to qualify for Russia 2018. Coach Gernot Rohr admitted Victor Moses, who plays on the flanks for the Super Eagles, is the national team’s No. 1 star.
“He is a world-class player and you can rely on him any time and any moment he is playing. He is the most impressive player in my team. He is fast and I have absolute confidence in him,” Rohr said of Moses.
At the World Cup in Russia, his equaliser against Argentina in the last group stage seems to have given the Super Eagles a berth to the knockout stage, until Nigeria lost it with four minutes to the end of the game to shatter the county’s dream at the Mundial.
His international retirement will definitely leave a big vacuum in the Super Eagles.
“It is a shame that he is quitting at a time the Super Eagles need players with the leadership quality of Victor Moses, especially when you consider that the team consist of lots of young players that are looking up to players like Moses for inspiration. No doubt he has left a big vacuum in the team,” former Nigeria international, Friday Ekpo said.
Moses was born in Lagos to a pastor. When he was 11, his parents were among thousands killed by rioters. A week later with his travel being paid for by relatives, he came to Britain as an asylum seeker. He attended Stanley Technical High School, now known as the Harris Academy, in South Norwood. Scouted playing football in the local Tandridge League for Cosmos 90 FC Crystal Palace approached him, with the club’s Selhurst Park stadium just streets away from his school.
“It was tough in the beginning being suddenly thrown into a different culture and stuff like that. As a young boy in a new country, you had to make new friends and that was really difficult. When I first came, I couldn’t even speak the language,” Moses told BBC Sport.
“When I started going to school, I started getting used to things, like the language. After that, I started adapting to school, friends and everything. It was really difficult to start with but I survived,” said Moses.
Today Moses boasts Premier League, Europa League and Africa Cup of Nations winners’ medals, and has also played in both the Champions League and World Cup.