Joshua Akpudje dreamed fervently of scoring his first goals as a professional, but never in his wildest imagination did he imagine breaking his professional goalscoring duck would come in the nightmarish shape of a strike past his own goalkeeper.
“I never dreamed of scoring an own goal in my career,” the MFM centre-back told busybuddiesng.com, echoing the deeply-held fears of many a professional footballer.
But score an own goal he did when he nodded past Abayomi Folarin in goal to give lowly Jigawa Golden Stars a 30th minute lead at the Agege Township Stadium in a Matchday 15 NPFL encounter on Wednesday.
“I tried to mark the ball out of my keeper, like allow, so I just decided to take away my head, I put the ball into my net,” he explained.
In moments like this, players feel terribly alone, plagued by a sudden self-consciousness that in many instances tend to derail them for the rest of the match.
Some others, however, like Akpudje, exhibit true character, propelled to set things right by an inner steel and more often than not, end up changing the narrative as they become heroes in a script that started out as a farce.
“Immediately [after the own goal], I was a little bit down for some seconds,” Akpudje said.
“But when I think about what my mum used to tell me that, ‘if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best’. So, I tried to put myself together and my coach tried to tell me and the fans cheered me up like ‘come on Joshua, let that aside and keep on going.”
Buoyed by the words of his mother and coach and re-energised by the outpouring of support from the stands, the U23 national team player who burst into national limelight last season scored two more nodders in the 42nd and 70th minutes – in the right goal this time around – to uncomplete an unlikely ‘hattrick’ and turn the game around.
And for the 21-year old defensive stalwart, what started out as a nightmare with him scoring the first own goal of 2020, ended up becoming the “happiest day of my life”.
“When I scored the equaliser I was so very very happy, but not one hundred per cent happy because I’ve never dreamed of scoring an own goal in my career, and this is the first own goal in the Nigeria Premier League 2020.
“So, scoring the equalising goal I was so happy. I had to run down to my fans and keep on thanking them for the words of encouragement, trying to pick me up. I speak to my God, I was very grateful for yesterday. Yesterday was my happiest day.”