Feature: Eze Collins - India's Nigerian Pearl

Goal.com looks at Eze Collins, a Nigerian footballer who has made an unusual move to India and is starting to establish himself as a force in South Asia…..

At first glance, he is like any other Nigerian: full of buoyancy, talking football 24/7, fostering lofty hopes and ambition. Nothing much different from millions of his compatriots who foster similar dreams, right?

But at times, a first impression is not the final one. Eze Collins might look and sound like any other Nigerian but he has been brave enough to do what many, not only Nigerians but people from other nations too, dread to even imagine.

Collins has leapt from one corner of the world to another - from Nigeria to India. Not a very straightforward or common route to achieve his footballing dreams it has to be admitted, but he has certainly reaped dividends.

Born and bred in Nigeria, Eze Collins had always dreamt of becoming a footballer, a world-class and famous footballer too. He comes from a footballing family; all his brothers, both younger and elder, are footballers. Most ply their trade in Nigeria itself while one plays in Germany and another used to play in Spain.

Collins started his footballing career in Nigeria but couldn't really pursue it. His mother wanted him to go for higher education as football is a very tricky and, at times, cruel sport and not everyone can make it to the top level.

So Collins came to India to do his Master's and thankfully never went back! His footballing talent and top drawer skills earned him a contract at Viva Kerala. There he demonstrated his quality and calibre but unfortunately for him, his tenure at Viva Kerala was plagued with injuries.

Soon after he was on his way to Nepal to play for one of the nation's top clubs, Mahendra United. He was an immediate hit at Machendra as he scored goals in tons and entertained Nepalese football lovers. Fast forward six months and Collins was back in India; this time the North East beckoned.

Collins was signed by a top club in Tripura and with them Collins won the local league. He was also their highest goalscorer. Calcutta Port Trust then came calling and the Eze Collins signed a one-year contract with them, thereby venturing to establish himself in the hub of India football that is Kolkata.

Last year Eze Collins became known nationwide. He featured for a Nigerian team at the Governor's Gold Cup last year. This team was adjudged the most valuable team in the competition. It was at this prestigious football competition that Collins finally established himself as a top draw foreign striker in the country.

But he was destined to go offshore and so he did. Collins was signed by Bhutanese football club Transport United. He was immensely successful there and was invited by Indian national football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia to play for his own football team, Sikkim United.

Collins didn't disappoint and played with pomp and grandeur for Sikkim United. And now his contract has come to an end and he is a free agent.

Free agent at the moment but shouldn’t be so for very long. You see, for a player of Eze Collins' ability, offers never stop coming. Collins remarks that he has a number of offers and three very good ones, including one from a top club in Bangladesh but he insists that he has yet to make up his mind.

Eze Collins plays as a striker and is a versatile one at that. Possessing the ability to play anywhere in the attackline, Collins is a calculative player, a footballer who can think fast and make quick decisions. He has tremendous pace and is quite good with his head. Unlike most strikers, Collins is two-footed which essentially gives him a slight advantage.

But which position does Collins himself prefer?

"I love playing as an out-and-out striker as I love scoring goals."

And boy, does he score goals! For whichever club he has featured, Eze Collins has scored goals and scored tons of them. In Bhutan. he hit the back of the oppositions' net an impressive 25 times and was also the highest sorer for his Tripura-based club.

And he has got a brilliant background too. Back in Nigeria, he featured for the Nigerian Under-17 national team and participated in the World Cup qualifiers for the U-17 side. His brothers are footballers and ply their trade in different parts of the world, including Europe. Eze Collins could have followed in his brothers' footsteps and gone to Europe.

But luck, or as some would say destiny, bound him to India and he is very much eager to play here. Collins has offers from some foreign clubs but he is keen to carry on his footballing career here in India.

Which is great indeed indeed.

Subhankar Mondal