When the story of Plateau United’s first ever league title is read for generations to come, it will be gloriously recounted how a son of the soil scored the decisive goal that made the entire city erupt with excitement.
United, owned and funded by the Plateau state government had dominated the 20-team league season but still required an outright win over outgoing Champions, Rangers in front of over fifteen thousand fans, jammed at the old-fashioned Rwang Pam Stadium to make sure of their long sought title.
A 25th minute lead via Chukwuemeka Umeh regardless, fans still sat at the edge of their seats, hoping no Antelope from Enugu shatters their dreams with its horn. Cometh the hour, Cometh the Man! Benjamin Ishaya Turba made it safe with a close range finish with two minutes left to throw the whole arena into surreal ecstasy.
“That is the most important goal in my career yet.” Turba told www.aclsports.com
“I felt very very happy because this is the highest title one can win in his career in the country and there were thousands of people, as if the whole state was at the stadium that day,” added Turba who already has an FA Cup winners medal from 2010 at Kaduna United.
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Like most footballers raised in Jos, Turba started out in the city, playing for United’s local rivals Mighty Jets before joining Kaduna United late 2009.
After spending seven years of his professional career traversing Nigeria from the core North to North East and South-East, Turba made the decision to return home when United gained promotion back to the elite division at the end of 2015 season.
“I planned to enroll on a diploma programme since I’m still in the country and since my state team gained promotion, I came home to play and school.”
He has since bagged a Diploma certificate in Psychology at the Plateau State Polytechnic in Jos on completion of the one-year course and with a league winning medal to crown it.
“It is a great feeling for me. I came back home for some other reasons but lucky I am to now win the league, on the final day, with my people, my state, my family, our governor, everybody. I feel like the happiest man in the whole world,” said the former El-Kanemi Warriors captain.
With United still in the running for a league and cup double, celebrations were always going to be restricted among the players because they have to travel 48 hours after the final league game to honour their AITEO Cup round of 16 game.
For a local boy though, many of his friends and family members have not hidden their gratitude to him for helping to bring the city of Jos into international limelight.
“The feeling has been awesome in the streets. Wherever I go, I feel that love, that joy on people’s face and when you realize you’ve put smile on people’s faces, it gladdens the heart.”
“I receive calls from here and there that my phone always go off because of calls from people that are happy and celebrating. Up till this moment that I even get tired of picking calls. People are so happy.”
Unfinished business on the continent
Turba is one of few Plateau United players that have previous experience playing on the continent. Stars like defender Salomon Junior, wingers Yaro Nature and Philip Azango as well as striker Kabiru Umar have featured for Nigerian teams on the continent in the past five years and will be hoping to translate it for United next season.
“We are expecting a big task ahead because the continental championship is an entirely different ball game,” acknowledged Turba.
“Sometimes you can even have it easier playing on the continent because they don’t know what you can do unlike in the league when you meet familiar faces and friends that know you very well but we have to be ready.”
“I believe with the calibre of players we have and the spirit in the team, we should do well. With good work from the technical crew and the management supported by the state government, we will do well.”
Turba however had an experience which haunts him till today. Having won the then Federation Cup with Kaduna United in 2010, he featured in the 2011 CAF Confederation Cup where his team bowed out at the group stage.
In their final group game in Kaduna, needing a win to advance to the semi-final, top striker Jude Aneke and Turba himself missed spot kicks as their team lost 0-1 to eventual finalists Club Africain. Turba hopes next year provides the chance to banish those memories permanently.
“I can’t forget that experience and I’ve been praying to get the chance to correct it. I believe we will do better, very much on the continent,” he reiterated.