Mercurial and prodigiously talented, Chukwuka Onuwa the diminutive midfielder who currently plies his trade for Enyimba having joined from MFM in the close season is one player who constantly sets the pulse racing with his blend of outrageous skills, deft touches, and magical passing.
Few players in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) embody the essence of the beautiful game like the short and stocky creative midfielder whose range of skills more than compensate for his deficit in height.
A fan favourite wherever he has played, the player who built a cult following at former club MFM where he was nicknamed “Magic 10” – an amalgam of his jersey number and his enchanting moves – has had to adjust to a new reality at the seven-time league champions where unlike at MFM where he spent five years, he isn’t one of the first names on the team sheet.
In the nine matches Enyimba has played this season, Onuwa has managed just a solitary start, coming in from the bench on a further six occasions and missing out entirely on another occasion. Having been a regular at his former side, Onuwa finds himself in an unfamiliar situation but the midfielder told busybuddiesng.com that he is prepared to bide his time and wait on Coach Usman Abd’Allah to give him a run of games in the starting line-up.
“Back then at MFM I did play regularly, [normally] starting the game,” Onuwa told busybuddiesng.com about the changes he has undergone at his new club.
“But coming down to Enyimba, the coach has the final say, the coach has a different philosophy and pattern [from] MFM but all I need to do is just concentrate.
“Each time I’ve come in the second half of the game I try to make one or two impact which is working out for me. With time I am going to still catch up and start starting the games here but I need to concentrate on my game and anytime I’m called upon I need to do my best for the team as well.”
And there is no doubt that his impact has certainly been felt in games where he’s been introduced in the second half.
He clinched his first assist for his side on Match Day 6 when he set up Wasiu Alalade to score a late second for Enyimba in their 2-0 home victory over Rivers United having come off the bench in the 83rd minute. And while that performance off the bench led to an increased clamour from fans for his inclusion in the first eleven, his impact as a second-half substitute in the Match Day 8 encounter at home to Remo Stars on February 10 all but brought the roof down at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba.
With the game deadlocked and the Peoples Elephant finding it difficult to prise open the visitors’ defence, Abd’Allah turned to the one man in his squad with the vision to find space in the tightest of places. Onuwa was introduced in the 71st minute and ten minutes later he scored what proved to be the winner from a move he instigated from his own half. Having found Ibrahim Mustapha with an exquisite cross-field pass, Onuwa made up 60 metres to turn the ball home from Mustapha’s reciprocal pass.
The fans went berserk as spontaneous cries of “Onuwa No More Bench!” filled the stadium and whilst the fans’ message has certainly been passed to the coach in no uncertain terms, Onuwa who has managed to create a visceral bond with the Aba fans in his short time there says he would remain level-headed and continue to give his best as he awaits the Coach to give him a chance for an extended run in the starting line-up.
“[The reaction of the fans to my goal] makes me feel excited but I’m not overwhelmed because I’m not the [sort] of person that just because the fans are hailing me [I then get carried away]. I need to keep working hard, try to make them happy, give them the best because since they are on my side I need to make them happy each time I come into the field and play and give my best for the team.
“I’m not [an] individual player, I’m a team player and you can notice that back from my days at MFM. I need to work for the team, and work for the club and bring back the glory days for the club and make the fans happy because the fans they are calling my name in the stadium and they say I should be starting but I believe the Coach has the final stay.
“He’s the head; maybe he believes this philosophy is working – him bringing me into the game to score and help the team, maybe it’s working for him. To me it’s working for me as well, if he calls me to start the game I’ll do well and do my best. Coming in [from the bench] doesn’t stop me from playing my kind of football all I need is just to concentrate and help the team come back to the top.”
Enyimba take on Bendel Insurance in a rescheduled Match Day 2 NPFL game today in Benin and Abd’Allah would expect to face plenty more scrutiny if “Magic 10” is left out of the starting eleven.