A certain young football prodigy, Chibuike Akabuike, hogged the headlines for the right reasons as he singlehandedly propelled his club, Peace FC, to the quarter-finals of the 2023 NEROS/Anambra FA Cup following his incredible performance as a striker and a goalkeeper in the Round of 16 win against Golden Boys Thursday at Rojenny Stadium, Oba, near Onitsha, Completesports.com reports.
The 20-year-old started the game as a top striker and scored two goals in the second half as Peace FC took a commanding 2-0 advantage.
But poor defending and loss of concentration ensued as Peace FC, the 2022 Cup losing Finalists, pulled off the pedal, allowing Golden Boys to stage a late rally and deservedly draw level.
Michael Okoi, Head Coach of Peace FC seemingly knew he had a joker and played it instantly. The coach withdrew Akabuike from outfield play and handed him the goalkeeping role as the game eventually dragged into a penalty shootout.
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The former FC Ifeanyiubah youngster did not disappoint. Akabuike saved two spot kicks and scored one himself as Peace FC prevailed 4-2 on the night to seal a place in Sunday’s quarter-finals.
Despite his amazing performance, Akabuike remained humble.
“There’s no special art in playing a striker and a goalkeeper role in one match, then scoring and stopping penalty-kicks. There’s no special art in stopping Penalty-kicks,” Akabuike told Completesports.com at Rojenny Stadium.
“It’s not only about training or anything, it’s about the grace of God. And I’m grateful to God for seeing us [Peace FC] through and as well thanking Him for helping me to help my team”.
He said the loss of concentration was the reason his side threw away their 2-0 lead during the final stages of the fierce game.
He added: “We were in the driving seat. The game was clearly in our hands but suddenly we lost concentration and paid dearly for it.
“But because God had said it was going to be our day, we had to go through the penalties to win”.
Akabuike who spent two seasons at FC Ifeanyiubah in 2019 and 2020 recalled how he started.
“I joined FC Ifeanyiubah at a very young age. And I was signed as a goalkeeper for the youth team. But because of my talent and progress, I was upgraded to the senior team,” he explained.
Akabuike went on throw more light on how he took up a striking role despite his goalkeeping talent.
“When I was at FC Ifeanyiuah, there was a time I picked (monkey nyash) injury.
“This kept me off the game and when other players were out training, I would remain at home because you can’t play with the injury.
“Back at home to treat the injury, I decided to be going out to train with other players as a midfielder.
“So, when I left FC Ifeanyiubah, I went to Simmy FC, Awka, where I started playing as a striker and would equally play as a goalkeeper when the need came up like our goalkeepers not available or injured in a match.
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“When I came to Peace FC, I remember playing and scoring a goal, as a striker, in our last Anambra Independent Football League, AIFL, match with Anambra FA Chairman, (Chikelue Iloenyosi) present.
“He even demanded my contact in case something good comes up, and I told him that I’m also a goalkeeper.
“Reason I didn’t want to give up goalkeeping is that if for any reason I find myself in Europe if striking doesn’t go, one could easily get into goalkeeping, ” Akabuike explained.
Peace FC coach, Michael Okoi, was not displeased that his boys pulled off the pedal at the most critical moment of the match.
“We were in the final last year, losing to Nnewi United (Edel FC). You know during the off-season, there are bound to be departures and arrivals.
“We’re still knocking them together for better performance. But, I must confess I wasn’t happy we threw away a 2-0 lead at a critical moment like that.
“But we’ll go back to the basics and ensure we get better in the coming games”.
The quarter-final matches 2023 NEROS/Anambra FA Cup are scheduled for Sunday, March 12, at four venues; Awka City Stadium; Rojenny Stadium, Oba; Chuba Ikpeazu Stadium, Onitsha and NEROS Stadium, Nanka.
By Sab Osuji in Oba
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