Victor Osimhen: Found a Home in Belgium

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Victor Osimhen

In the late 1980s up to the 90s, Belgium was the ‘Mecca’ for Nigeria footballers and the roll call is endless. From late Stephen Keshi to Etim Esin to Peter Rufai to Sunday Oliseh, Samson Siasia to mention but a few. Little wonder, Belgium is where former Nigeria U-17 star-Victor Osimhen rediscovered his form

Super Eagles youngster, Victor Osimhen, has revealed the secrets behind his incredible form on-loan at Belgian club Charleroi.

Since arriving Belgium from VfL Wolfsburg, the 19-year-old has scored seven goals in 12 games for the club.

His impressive form earned him a recall to the Super Eagles squad for this month’s 2019 Nations Cup qualifier against South Africa and he started in Tuesday’s 0-0 friendly draw against Uganda in Asaba.

“My confidence level was very low at some point and what going out on loan to Charleroi has done for me is unexplainable,” Osimhen told BBC Sport.

“It was tough in Germany because of the high expectations – some people started doubting me and also pushed me to start doubting myself as well.

“The football in Belgium has helped, I also have a wonderful group of players around me and the coaching crew have been great with me.

“As a young player, you hear people comparing you to other stars who emerged from the under-17 World Cup and never fulfilled their potential.

“But now at Charleroi I have comfortably found my happiness again, and I thank everyone in Belgium and at Wolfsburg for the opportunity and support.”

Osimhen was the top scorer as Nigeria clinched a fifth Under-17 World Cup title in 2015 with 10 goals in Chile, which saw him win the Golden Boot and Silver Ball.

After the tournament he decided against joining English side Arsenal, to sign with the 2009 German champions Wolfsburg in January 2016, but injuries restricted him to 16 appearances for the club in all competitions.

Despite being a part of the squad for two years, his lack of games meant he missed out on going to the 2018 World Cup with Nigeria.

“I am still young and I think it wasn’t meant to be, but I can still look forward to the future,” he added.

“I thank coach Gernot Rohr for the opportunity to return to the squad and I hope to keep working hard to stay in his plans.”

On the back of his impressive performance at 2015 U-17 World Cup with Nigeria emerging the top scorer to claim both the Golden Boot and Silver Ball, the attacker joined the former German Bundesliga champions.

However, the 19-year-old failed to settle into the Wolves’ senior set-up amid injury struggles and was shipped on loan to Charleroi this summer.

Since moving to Belgium, the youngster has rediscovered his form, scoring seven goals in 12 outings across all competitions.

Osimhen’s failure to get sufficient playing time and impress at Wolfsburg cost him a place in Rohr’s squad to the 2018 World Cup.

“I am still young and I think it wasn’t meant to be, but I can still look forward to the future,” he added.

The rise to prominence of Osimhen looked set to address a long-standing problem of Nigerian football: the lack of a dead-eye centre-forward . Not since the passing of Rashidi Yekini, the famed Super Eagles goleador has there been anything close to a sure thing, a player with the ability to ruthlessly home in on goal.

A move to Germany always seemed a problematic fit, as Wolfsburg, whom he joined, are lacking in stability, and have been for quite a while. The constant upheaval, both managerially and administratively, would provide no kind of proper environment for fostering a promising young player.

It seems now as though the intervening period has been rather wasted, as has some of his lustre . The German side were eager to farm him out in the summer, and he suffered the indignity of a number of trials in Belgium and the Netherlands, before finally earning a loan move to Charleroi.

Not the most auspicious of clubs then or even manner of arrival, given his promise and the fact that he was still only 19.

That is not to say that Osimhen is that good; merely that he may be ready now to lead and if flights of fancy are acceptable, then how far off an invitation to the senior national team is he?

Rohr extended invitations to him in his early days as Super Eagles boss, all while the 19-year-old was barely getting minutes at Wolfsburg.

There really is something there and while there are still a few rough edges, the diamond is just starting to peak out.