Aubameyang the hero again, but Gabon needs more out of him
AT BORRUSIA Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang,
celebrates his goals by wearing superhero masks. He doesn’t wear the entire costume, just the mask, because he has good side-kicks who propel him to hit the back of the net regularly in the Bundesliga and not have to worry about anything else.
But with Gabon, he has to wear the entire costume with a cape that hides underneath his No 9 jersey.
Aubameyang rescued his country from a potential defeat last night against the Stallions. The point Gabon earned wasn’t what they needed, afteralso being held by Afcon debutants GuineaBissau. That point does keep their chances of reaching the last eight alive.
The Stallions, who also have two points from their opening two matches, are in the same situation as Gabon. Their passage to the last eight is in their hands. They will be hopingtheir own superhero, Jonathan Pitroipa, is there to take them to the knockout stage.
Pitroipa joined Abdul Rahman Baba of Ghana and Zimbabwe’s Knowledge Musona on the list of seriously injured players. The entire Burkina Faso bench rushed to Pitroipa’s side after he was stretched off the field to see how bad the injury was. It was serious enough for him to be replaced by Prejuce Nakoulma. who was quick to console his countrymen as he put Burkina Faso ahead. The 29-year-old pickpocketed the ball from Johann Obiang, went on a surging run and put it past Didier Ovono in goal despite two defenders harassing him. Gabon needed a hero. Aubameyang responded to the call as he always has. His lightning-fast pace saw him blitz into a good scoring position that was stopped “illegally” inside the box by goalkeeper Herve Koffi. Africa’s Referee of the Year, Bakary Papa Gassama, awarded the penalty. There wasn’t even a discussion among the Gabonese players about who was to take it.
Aubameyang took the ball, gingerly walked to the penalty spot and put the Panthers back in this match. The mood changed inside this venue, sending the home fans into a frenzy.
Aubameyang thrives under the spotlight. But when it’s not shone on him he disappears, even when he has to be there to pick up the team as the captain.
He doesn’t talk much on the field. He might be his country’s talisman, but he is not the leader they need. Because of their inexperience at this stage, with the core of this group of players having never successfully managed to qualify for a major tournament through their football abilities, they are also in desperate need of a leader. They need someone who will not only fix their broken ship but also steady it when it hits rough seas. If they don’t get that leader, their match against Cameroon here on Sunday could be their last.
Njabulo Ngidi is in Gabon courtesy of Supersport