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Uche Nwofor’s comeback halted by serious injury

20:01 GMT 13/02/2019
Uche Nwofor
The 27-year-old had appeared to be on the comeback trail in Algeria, but now faces at least six months on the sidelines

Uche Nwofor’s attempted comeback in the Algerian top flight was halted in devastating fashion this weekend when the Nigeria international picked up a serious knee injury.

It’s a setback that significantly curtails his attempted comeback at JS Kabylie, and threatens to bring to a premature end his time in North Africa.

The 27-year-old moved to Kabylie last year after returning to the NPFL—and Rivers United—in a bid to launch his career.

It’s been five years since the striker’s career was ‘on the up’, as he enjoyed three seasons in Dutch football with VVV-Venlo and SC Heerenveen.

He netted on his Venlo debut in a 3-3 draw with PSV Eindhoven back in September 2011, and soon appeared primed to follow in Ahmed Musa’s footsteps out of The Good Old and onto bigger and better things.

However, as Musa went onto CSKA Moscow and then Leicester City, Nwofor’s progress stalled, and he returned to his homeland following stints with Lierse, Boavista and AS Trencin—another club particularly fond of Nigerian talent.

Returning to the NPFL was intended as a reboot, and Nwofor duly attracted interest from Algerian side JSK.

On paper, it appeared like a wise move; North Africa is a natural first port of call for Sub-Saharan African players keen on taking a step towards Europe.

However, only four months after moving to Algeria, Nwofor was already angling for a fresh start, complaining of the professionalism of his new employers.

A departure in December or January was mooted, but Nwofor remained.

At the time of his injury, he is still owed two and a half months’ wages, understood to be over 30,000 Euros.

His was fast becoming a cautionary tale for African players seeing North African clubs—where culture and climate can often be alien—as a natural move to make.

For Nwofor, club politics and a change of leadership at JSK pushed him to the peripheries of the side.

On the field, there have been flashes of the excellence that once saw him fast-tracked to the Eredivisie.

Nwofor netted three in two games in September—including a double in a massive 5-0 victory over MC Alger—but scored only once since, opening the scoring in a home victory against NA Hussein Dey in November.

It was in the return match against Alger on Saturday that Nwofor’s season unravelled, as he was stretchered off on 34 minutes with a serious injury to his left knee.

Scans have subsequently confirmed the striker has cruciate ligament damage, and can expect to be sidelined for a minimum of six months.

“We’ve subjected the player to thorough examinations,” club doctor Ahmed Djadjoua told journalists, as per DZ Foot. “This has revealed a serious sprain on his left knee that will require care during several months.”

It’s a miserable setback, although Nwofor has told Goal that reports in the Algerian press that he’s been axed from his contract by JSK are not true.

According to local sources, club president Cherif Mellal had opted to meet with the player’s representatives in order to arrive at a solution which would see Nwofor receiving several months’ wages in advance in order to leave the club early.

“I’ve not had any official discussion with the team officials,” Nwofor began. “I am waiting for an appointment to go for surgery and I’m only hearing these [rumours] from fans.

“They owe me two and a half months’ salary, and I still have one year on my contract with them.

“It’s not normal that they make this decision when I am with injury.”

Despite JSK’s own recent failings in front of goal, Nwofor’s return of four goals in 22 outings this term means that he’s unlikely to be a major loss for the team.

However, in the context of the striker’s own comeback, this is a devastating setback, particularly if he had any ambitions to force his way back into the international reckoning.

Nwofor starred during the 2011 African Youth Championship, when, alongside the likes of Gbenga Arokoyo, Ramon Azeez and Musa, he won the title with Nigeria’s U-20 team.

The hitman top scored during that tournament, netting four in five, but struggled to translate that form to the senior national team.

It wasn’t initially the case, as Nwofor marked his debut with two goals in 19 minutes as the Super Eagles defeated South Africa in the 2013 Mandela Challenge.

He would make the 2014 World Cup squad after scoring in a 2-2 draw against Scotland at Craven Cottage before the tournament, but that’s as good as it got.

The striker would feature only four more times for Nigeria—coming on as a substitute in three of their matches in Brazil—but hasn’t been considered by selectors since.

A goalscoring return to form in Algeria could have been the launchpad to another stab at Europe, but Nwofor must now dig deep into his personal resources to overcome this latest setback, be it in Algeria or beyond.