While the past weeks and months have mostly been about the phenomenal goal-scoring prowess of Victor Osimhen in Serie A with Napoli, another Nigerian has emerged completely out of the blue in Belgium-based Gift Orban.
The 20-year-old grabbed the headlines last weekend as he scored four goals in KAA Gent’s hammering of Zulte-Waregem.
While critics may want to say it could be a flash in the pan, the booming rise of Orban suggests otherwise, as he looks set to follow in the footsteps of many great Nigerian players who used the Belgian league as a launching pad to global relevance.
Wonderful memories from Belgium
The Belgian League has been a launching pad for a good number of Nigerian players, from the legendary late Stephen Keshi to Victor Ikpeba, Sunday Oliseh, and a host of others.
Over the years, Nigerian football stars have made a significant impact on the global football stage, with many starting off in the Belgian Pro League, which is ranked eighth by UEFA’s league coefficient.
Many will recall Osaze Odemwingie’s exploits at La Louviere before shining in Ligue 1, the Russian League, and the English Premier League.
Moses Simon is another Nigerian player who had a successful career in the Belgian Pro League.
He played for KAA Gent from 2015 to 2018, scoring 21 goals in 136 appearances. Simon helped KAA Gent win the Belgian Cup in the 2016/17 season, and the club named him their 2017/18 Player of the Year.
Gangling Paul Onuachu, who is now in the Premier League, Wilfred Ndidi and even Osimhen, all passed through Belgium on their way to stardom; meaning Orban has more than enough motivation to aim higher in his fledgling career.
Far from being an accomplished player, Orban had to work hard to see his name in lights. Like many Nigerian players before him, Orban faced countless challenges and obstacles, but he has remained steadfast in his determination to succeed.
Despite his hard work and dedication, success seemed to elude him, and he found himself at a crossroads. But little did he know that fate had something in store for him.
It was when he moved to Togo in search of better opportunities that his fortunes changed. As reported by Soccernet.ng, it was in Togo that he caught the eye of the renowned Nigerian scout Ola Fowler.
When Fowler spotted Orban during a trial program in Lome, he knew he had found something special.
Filled with excitement and anticipation, Fowler invited him to Nigeria to feature in a program in Uyo, Akwa Ibom’s capital city, organised by super football agent Atta Aneke.
Orban’s talents shone brighter than ever before there, as Norwegian scouts who saw his abilities were immediately impressed. They wasted no time in inviting him to Norway for a trial, and Orban jumped at the chance.
Having excelled, he secured a contract with Stabaek FC, who handed him a deal till 2026.
In the same way Norwegian striker, Erling Halland has been a nightmare to defenders across the world, Orban was even more deadly in the Scandinavian country; finishing as the top scorer in the 2022 Norwegian First Division with 16 goals, which helped Stabaek win promotion to the 2023 Eliteserien.
Taking Europe by storm
With his exceptional performance in Norway, it was only normal for clubs to come around asking for the services of Orban.
Of all his suitors, it was Belgian Pro League side KAA Gent who were ready to match their words with action; splashing a ‘princely’ €3.30 million on the Nigerian striker in January 2023
Some critics deemed the fee too expensive for a relatively unknown player just making his way to Europe, but Orban proved them wrong by demonstrating his exceptional abilities on the field.
He has scored nine goals in his first few games, including a stunning brace on his Pro League debut
4 – Gift Orban is the first KAA Gent player with four goals in a Jupiler Pro League game this century; no player has scored more goals in the top-10 European Leagues since Feb 11, when Gift Orban made his KAA Gent league debut (Jonathan David also 7). Gifted. pic.twitter.com/GYAPR7hxyo
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) March 12, 2023
Orban followed that up with a historic four-goal splash against Zulte Waregem that makes him the first player from the club to score that number in a single Pro League game this century.
Brighter days ahead
At 20, the prowess of Orban is highly commendable, as some of his distinguishing talents include being fast, clinical, ruthless, and also adept with both feet.
In his brief tenure in the Pro League, he has already scooped Gent Player of the Month and Best Goal for February
Orban is ready to follow in the footsteps of his compatriots, who, after conquering Belgium, went on to the more glamorous Premier League and he rightly admits he needs to master his trade to achieve this
“My level has to be even higher if I ever want to play in the Premier League. There is still a lot of work to be done,” Orban told Gent’s official website.
While Onuachu set many records during his time in Belgium, all indications suggest that Orban, Nigeria’s latest addition to the Jupiler Pro League, is the next big thing in football, and fans can expect greater things from him.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999