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The Rebirth of Nigerian Forward John Owoeri Who Will Shop You Goals for Fun

John Owoeri will receive a deserved gong at an end of season awards night in Sweden for clutching the Scandinavian country’s domestic Premier League golden boot. If any member of BK Hacken set up should get thrown plaudits, then it sure can’t be any less than the Nigerian striker. Not that rest of the twenty-four members of the squad haven’t done enough in the just concluded campaign to be worthy of adulations, rather,  the terrific run the Warri-born goal-getter have had, including his razor-sharp form in front of goal, just stands out.

57-year-old coach Peter Gerhardsson, who’s usually not in the habit of singling out a player for all the praises, was forced to take a retreat, focusing his elaborate after-match comments on John.

It can only be hoped that the African is not a one season wonder striker following his impressive 17-goal return this year– a career high for a man whose grandest goal tally prior to elapse of the 2016 season has been eight goals, scored for Swedish Allvenskan outfit Atvidaberg, his club of three years.

In a term he will look back at with fondness, John is undoubtedly the Swedish top flight’s star attraction and it will sure not be a surprise when league juggernauts champions Malmo, Kalmar or the wealthier side of the division, Elfsborg, come hankering over the signature of Owoeri when the transfer window reopens.

His biggest exploit of the championship came this month when he dared to do a Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Nigeria U-20 man has never competed for a league golden boot award since turning professional eleven years ago but found himself shouldering the scoring burden of Hacken and the stakes even got higher on league final day.

It occurred that the one-time capped Nigerian trailed a goal behind Swede forward Andersson Sebastian who’d notched 14 goals for eventual joint second-placed Norrkoping. Vidar Örn Kjartansson was also in the top-scorer race with his 14 goals for league winners Malmo until he decided to switch to Israeli Premier League giants Maccabi Tel Aviv in August.

There’s Elfsborg star-man Viktor Prodell’s 13 as well as Kenya and Djurgarden IF hot shot Micheal Olunga’s 12 goals. The crowded pursuit for the coveted golden boot only served to spice things up but Owoeri rose to the billing, making the silverware his, on a dramatic final league day. The Nigerian peppered four goals past Falkenberg net-minder Alexander Lundin on a thrilling night Hacken BK would later win by seven goals.

That night, watched by a paltry turnout of 1,437 supporters at the Bravida Arena, the 29-year-old ran the length of the pitch before speeding down to the Hacken’s substitutes’ bench to pose for an imaginary ‘selfie’ with teammates in sheer elation.

Perched at 9th position, Hacken had nothing more to fight for with their place assured but not John who got confirmed the league top scorer on 17 goals. There’s already a bombardment of interest in the player but it remains to be seen whether he will in fact see out the remainder of his one-year contract with Hacken.

The winger-turned striker will savour his newfound fame and form but behind this season of goal galore, lie years of nightmare moments. It must be said John did not have the best of starts to his career.

Plucked from the Nigeria youth team that reached the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship final, losing only to winners Argentina, the attacker got hurried by Feyenerood and signed the dotted lines for the Dutch Eredivisie club in 2006. Much was expected of the then Bendel Insurance FC front-man at the De Kuip grounds after impressing scouts in the Youth World Cup hosted in the Netherlands.

Less than a year after signing, he got frozen out of the A-team with the Dutch side disappointed by his slow adaptation and off he went on a season-long loan to Westerlo FC.

The idea was to ensure his familiarization with rigors of first team duties and the move did not turn out as pleasing with the Belgian side unwilling to keep the Nigerian a season longer upon expiry of the initial loan agreement. A return to Feyenrood followed who would later free him of his contract with a trial stint with French second division’s Brest, a month later, also proving a fiasco.

A brave return to the Nigeria League to re-start his career with clubs like Enyinmba, FC Heartland SunShine Stars got him going. Ismaily Sporting Club became his first step in his second attempt at football out of Nigeria. The Egyptian heavyweights reportedly tied the redeemed heartland goal-getter to a two-year deal with total earnings soaring up to $750,000. John headed back to Nigeria in 2012 on the heels of elapse of his Egyptian contract with Sunshine Stars being his first port of call prior to crossing the divide to club Warri Wolves in the Delta State.

Swedish outfit Atvidabergs FF offered the out-of-favor Nigeria international chance in 2013, a deal later renewed by two years before Hacken BK raided their fellow top flight side for the attacker. Owoeri have had other proposals but opted against leaving Sweden to ink a deal with current employers BK who sure have little regrets over signing John.

Today, he may be unable to walk his way into the current Nigeria national team – a snub only Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr can explain – but he stands tall, chest puffed out, a contended Caf Champions League runner-up medal and Svenksa Cupen winner.

At 29 and soon to turn 30, Owoeri may still have speed – that spark of agility capable of cornering the most usually unflappable of defenses, but regiment of intense exercises is known to take toll on an aging body. And while his stock rises, there is a growing sense The Wasps (Hacken) will tempt the African with an improved but revised contract in the hope to cash in on him on a price threefold the amount they acquired him for to desperate striker-searching clubs in January.

Until then, John remains a big part of the Yellow and Blacks with replication of this campaign’s 17-goal feat to top his priorities come next season.


Featured Photo: John Owoeri — Courtesy of Getty Images

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