It was definitely a glorious outing for little-known 21-year old Chisom Chikatara on Monday as his three goals in the second half ensured that Nigeria beat Niger 4-1 and assumed leadership of group C.
The Abia Warriors striker started on the bench and was cooling his bum for 58 minutes before Super Eagles manager, Sunday Oliseh, decided to throw the striker into the fray at the Stade Regional de Nyamirambo in Kigali, and like they say, the rest is history.
It was then a story not needing too much time to make an impression as he hit a hat-trick in 32 minutes and really if he had taken all his chances the Umuahia-born forward could have scored five goals.
But who is Chisom Chikatara?
Social Media has been awash with the ‘Kolanut Boy’ since his MVP feat on Monday night but why kolanut? Chisom actually used to hawk Kolanut around Umuahia, before he broke into the first team of the then Nigeria National League side, Abia Warriors.
His goals led them to promotion in 2013, and since then he has not looked back. He finished the 2015 season with 15 goals as he helped his side to a commendable 10th-place finish.
But going into CHAN 2016 tournament, he was rated as the back-up striker to Sunshine Stars’ Tunde Adeniji.
He ensured with his display on Monday that he should start against Tunisia on Friday.
But what are the features that ensured Chisom had such a dramatic impact on being thrown into the fray?
Strikers always strive to gain at least a yard on their markers and Chikatara has that electric pace over five yards that ensures he is able to maneuver his way into great scoring positions. It is something that is called the striker’s instinct and mostly cannot be taught but can be enhanced.
The best strikers are those that can block out everything when their scoring chance arrives and his three goals against Niger showed all that coolness. Even though he could have scored five – the missed chances showed that he needs to trust his left foot a bit more and make up his mind on one-on-one occasions. But that will come with better coaching and playing against better opponents.
Whereas Adeniji plays like a bulldozer [and this has its benefits], Chikatara relies on getting himself into scoring positions in almost every forward thrust. He does not jostle or tussle with central defenders [just like Sergio Aguero] but he is always hanging on the shoulder of the last defender, waiting for passes over the top.
Before the tournament kicked off last Saturday, Chikatara had said in an interview by the Nigeria Football Federation that, “all I want is to make Nigeria proud.”
He has more than made us proud.
He is making a name for himself. Coach Oliseh had said before the tournament, “the players are very young and we plan to integrate some of them to the main team for the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.”
Surely now, if Chikatara continues to impress and score goals, he might just have knocked another Europe-based Eagle off Oliseh’s roster.