Aubameyang the hero again, but Gabon needs more out of him

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJABULO NGIDI

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

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