This past Saturday and Friday both provided lots of high moments for several Nigerian players, ledy by Simeon Tochukwu Nwankwo (Simy), who emerged top scorer in the Italian lower division and Joe Aribo, who won two awards at Glasgow Rangers of Scotland, megasportsarena.com reports.
While Aribo got personal glory at The Gers’ end of season awards, it was collective joy for his new teammate, Leon Aderemi Balogun, who got victory on his debut with the Glasgow-based SPL side, while Emil Maduka Okoye also played his first match for Sparta Rotterdam of Holland and Alhassan Yusuf celebrated winning the FA Cup with IFK Gothenburg of Sweden.
In Italy, 28-year-old Simy made history as the first African player to finish top scorer in Serie B, after hitting home 20 goals and four assists in a successful promotion drive for Crotone, as he ended the campaign with one strike ahead of his closest rival, Pietro Iemmello of Perugia.
Simy, who was also top scorer in Portugal’s second division four years ago, when he netted 20 goals for Gil Vicente in the 2015/16 season, scored 14 this season to help Crotone return to the Italian Serie A after two seasons of toiling in the lower ranks.
In Scotland, Aribo smiled home with awards for best young player of the year and goal of the season at Rangers, following his stunning debut campaign with The Gers, during which he netted nine goals in 48 appearances.
The 24-year-old central midfielder, who hit a breakthrough for his career at Ibrox, where he moved to only last summer from Charlton Athletic of England, got the goal of the season gong with his wonder strike against Sporting Braga of Portugal in the UEFA Europa League.
Also in Scotland, this time on the field of play, Leon Balogun pushed aside any worries about fatigue, as he thrilled on his competitive debut for Rangers on the opening day of the Scottish Premiership’s new season, just seven days after he made the switch to the Ibrox Stadium.
The 32-year-old former Weder Bremen, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Darmstadt and SV Mainz of Germany as well as ex-Brighton and Wigan Athletic of England defender only started training with Steven Gerrard’s side last Tuesday, but he was named alongside Aribo in the starting 11 and helped his side eke out a 1-0 win away to Aberdeen on Saturday.
Rangers scored halfway into the half when outgoing star striker, Alfredo Morelos, who is about to replace Victor Osimhen at Lille Metropole of France, provided the assist that helped Ryan Kent net the game’s only goal, and Rangers held on to snatch all three points at stake.
Balogun was on for the entire duration and earned a rating of 7.6 over ten, after executing three clearances, got one key tackle, a blocked shot, won nine duels and completed 87% of his passes; while Aribo also played for 90 minutes and finished with 7.1 on the rate card.
While Balogun was almost flawless in his partnership with former Brighton pal, Connor Goldson in central defence, Aribo was resplendent in his 49th game for the Glasgow-based club and the team’s new signing from Leicester City.
Rangers’ 20-year-old new signing, Calvin Bassey was not dressed but his namesake and second choice goalkeeper, Calvin Ughelumba was benched for the duration of play, while Funsho Ojo got a 45th minute yellow card for Aberdeen and was replaced in the 78 minute of play.
Same evening in Scotland former Super Eagles’ defender, Efe Ambrose also got a 90th minute yellow card in full duration action with Livingston as they lost 1-0 away to St. Mirren, while Isaac Olaofe was benched for all 90 minutes by St. Johnstone in their 1-1 draw away to Dundee United
In Holland, Okoye made his debut for Sparta Rotterdam in a pre-season friendly, 18 days after his signing was confirmed by the Dutch Eredivisie club, and the former Fortuna Dusseldorf of Germany shot-stopper played the entirety of the second half in his side’s 3-1 win over TOP Oss.
Okoye, who started training with his new club on July 22, after which they entered their pre-season camp in Delden, impressed in his first game for Rotterdam, as he kept a clean sheet in the game that saw Giovanni Büttner open scoring for Oss but Sparta leveled before half-time.
Nigerian-born 17-year-old attacker, Emmanuel Emegha made it two in the 68th minute, as the Dutch U-15 international, who scored 14 goals in 17 matches for Rotterdam’s youth teams last season, chipped the ball over the keeper, before Jason Meerstadt also got on the scoresheet.
In Sweden, Alhassan Yusuf is still celebrating Thursday’s Sweden Cup triumph he achieved with IFK Goteborg, as his side picked the trophy for the first time in 14 years by defeating their main Swedish League rivals, FF Malmo.
Goteborg fell behind in the first half, before they fought back to draw level and take the game to extra time, then ended up winning 2-1, thereby claiming their seventh Sevenka Cupen conquest that added honour to their 18 league titles.
The development left the former Akwa United of Uyo battling midfielder, who cut his football teeth at FC Hearts of Abuja, thrilled to the bone marrow and he dedicated the achievement to the memory of his grandmother, who passed away last week in Kano.
Alhassan said: “It was great to win my first trophy in Europe, massive. Winning it at the expense of our arch-rivals Malmo made it a lot more special for both the team and the fans. We started badly, but we gradually came back into the game.
“Unfortunately, they still scored from a set piece. Our character got us the equalizer. And in extra time, even with their experienced and quality players, we showed we were much, much fitter than them to score the winning goal and defend till the end.”