It was on August 11th 1985 that Jonathan Akpoborie’s name hit the consciousness of most Nigerians.
That evening in Beijing, China he scored the 1st goal in the final of maiden FIFA/Kodak U16 World Cup. Nigeria beat Germany 2 nil in that final and new heroes were made.
Last weekend in Germany, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat trick for Dortmund in a 6-1 rout of Borussia Moechengladbach. That was the Gabon striker’s 4th Bundesliga hat trick and put him level with Akpoborie on the number of hat tricks scored by Africans in the Bundesliga. Many had no idea Akpoborie scored that many in his time in the Bundesliga.
Aclsports.com spoke to Akpoborie and started by asking him if he was sad that his record was gone. “Far from sad. I was smiling when I read it. It shows that the boy is doing good things for Africa also in the Bundesliga” was the simple but straightforward answer from him.
What does he think of the speedy Aubameyang? “Fantastic player. I was privileged to meet the dad in Gabon long before he (PEA) burst onto the scene. Then he was still in the AC Milan academy. His speed is fantastic and he has that gift of being at the right place inside the box most times”
Akpoborie started out at 1.FC Saarbrucken before going to a number of other clubs, Hansa Rostock, Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and returning to Saarbrucken to finish off. On those 4 hat tricks, does he still remember them? “Yes” he says emphatically and starts to reel them off
“Stuttgart vs Hamburg game ended 3-1, Bochum vs Stuttgart game ended 3-3, Wolfsburg vs Hamburg game ended 4-4 and Stuttgart vs Wolfsburg the game ended 2-5 It was my first game against Stuttgart after my transfer to Wolfsburg”
Tasty fixtures those ones. It is quite an achievement when one considers that at some point the likes of Tony Yeboah and Victor Ikpeba played in the league. However, the Bundesliga has not been a happy hunting ground for African forwards, why is that so, Jonny?
“The Bundesliga has changed its rules regarding non European players. Before now, African players can play in the lowest of the league, and the Bundesliga clubs can keep and develop any player. But now, you have to sign a professional contract and take a valuable space of a foreign player even if you are still developing. So the clubs now want a finished player, not for them trying to develop them. The notable two examples are Chrisantus (Macaulay) and the present Nigerian player with Wolfsburg – Victor Osimehen”
Basically, the nurturing that Akpoborie went through at his first club is no longer available for youngsters from Africa coming to Germany. The hosts do not want young non Europeans blocking the paths of home grown talent. Makes sense.
Jonathan Akpoborie scored 143 goals in German league football in 325 games with 7 different clubs. Aubameyang is likely to score a fifth hat trick before he leaves Dortmund, right? “It won’t surprise me and I will be happy for him to set a new record” Akpoborie says.