The midfielder’s move to the Corsican club underlines a critical six-month period for him to get in shape and make it into Nigeria’s World Cup squad
By Lolade Adewuyi
After what seemed like eternity, Sunday Mba has finally made the move to greener pastures in France. On Tuesday, the midfielder signed for Ligue 2 side CA Bastia in an 18-month deal.
By putting pen to paper for the Corsican club, Mba brings an end to his troubled club career and can now look forward to better days ahead, albeit in lower competition that will be made keener as Bastia struggle to maintain their place in the division.
Even though Mba’s move is not as glamorous as many Nigerians had expected, it is a move that’s really important for the player’s psychology.
When Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi named the midfielder in his 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations almost a year ago, he was an unknown quantity.
Mba was one of six players based in the Nigeria Premier League that Keshi tried to build into his squad to give representation to the slightly respected domestic scene.
Expected to be contented with a place on the bench during the tournament in South Africa, faith smiled on him when Spain-based Nosa Igiebor could not hold his own in the starting line up.
The 25-year-old was to carve his name into Nigerian football folklore in the quarter final game against star-studded Cote D’Ivoire in Rustenburg where he scored the winning goal to send the Super Eagles to the semi finals.
He further endured that history would forever remember him as the man who helped the West Africans to their third continental title as he scored the lone goal in the final against Burkina Faso.
Suddenly, Mba went from unknown quantity to national hero and with it worldwide acclaim. Goal named him World Player of the Week and his goal against the Stallions was recently chosen by Fifa among the defining football moments of 2013.
However, his return to Nigeria after that great feat in South Africa heralded a fight over his ownership rights between Warri Wolves and Enugu Rangers – with both clubs claiming he was theirs while the
midfielder claimed he wanted to play for Rangers.
After wading into the controversy, the Nigeria Football Federation declared that Warri Wolve
After months of sitting on the sidelines, the Seasiders agreed to loan him out to the Flying Antelopes where he eventually played one match for them in a continental game.s were the rightful owners of the player’s signature and that they had the option of letting him go wherever they pleased.
As his troubled club career festered, there was the growing threat that he could lose his place in the national team as his performances became erratic due to inactivity.
Mba made a poor showing at the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June and went on to lose his starting place in the squad.
A protracted transfer in August saw him fail to tie down a contract with Bastia as Warri Wolves rejected the financial conditions of the deal tabled before them. His hope of moving to Europe got stalled and he returned to Nigeria an unhappy player and on the fringes of the national team.
With his prolonged stay in the domestic scene, Mba became the star of the Super Eagles Team B as they made their way through to qualify for the lesser African Nations Championship (CHAN). He kept his relevance with the side and was expected to lead the team to South Africa until Bastia came calling once more.
The player is expected to be with the French team for 18 months, time enough to prove himself and make the move to bigger sides in Europe.
However, from this move one thing is sure for Mba – the midfielder has an opportunity to regain his full fitness, physically and psychologically.
With the World Cup less than six months away, the battle for national team shirts will only get hotter and there are only a few places left in the Super Eagles midfield.
With established stars John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi assured of a place in Keshi’s preferred 4-3-3, there will be huge jostling for the third spot among Mba, Nnamdi Oduamadi, John Ogu, Sone Aluko and Igiebor.
While Sunday Mba will first need to survive the challenges of winter that come with a January transfer, he will definitely hope that this move to Bastia can get him on the train to Brazil and on to a joyous, warm South American summer with the Super Eagles.