IKENWA NNABUOGOR takes a close look at the defending languid figure of Jamshedpur of India defender, Stephen Eze and reckons he deserves much more..
Towering India-based central defender Stephen Eze appears to truly be living the hashtag “Defend Like Eze” he launched on his social media platforms as the former Lobi Star ace has continued to keep a steady rising profile in the Asian country popular for Bollywood.
Eze emerged from his very first taste of the fast rising Indian Super League smelling of Roses and putting a gloss on his debut season, leading his side’s charge from rear and even grabbing a mouthwatering share of four goals.
The former CHAN Eagles star shone like a million stars in the recently concluded 11-team league that has continued to attract top stars from all over the world.
Eze jumped on the Indian train from Bulgarian side Lokomotiv Plovdiv after stormy transfer troubles at Kazakhstani side Tobol, and left a memorable foot print that could be cast in stone for a little more time at the Super League side.
The Super League, which launched eight years ago as an experimental programme, is fast turning into a permanent soccer venture after surviving initial take-off hiccups and attracting top investors.
Players are signed on six-month contract basis after which the players are released or have their contracts renewed for an extension.
Eze’s Jamshedpur’s foot prints could well be marbled for another spell owing to his superlative performances that saw him play every single minute of the just concluded season.
He could still be on his way to bigger Indian Super League sides who have more financial muscles to flex to prize him away from the modest side bankrolled by the multinational steel rolling company, Tata Steel.
Eze did this, did that in the just concluded season so much that the Indian media proclaimed him as one of the best foreigners to have ever graced the league.
So good was Eze this past season, he was named twice by Irish coach, Owen Coyle, who built his impressive defensive network around the Makurdi-born centre-back as well as gave him licence to venture upfield in search of goals and this fetched him four.
He would sign off his debut season in style by netting in the last game on February 25 in their 3-2 home victory over Bengaluru.
Eze and Jamshedpur may not have finished with a silverware having finished sixth in the 11-team Indian Super League, but Eze’s covering of every blade of grass in the 20-game Indian Super League format may well open bigger doors for him.
Whether Eze remains in India or moves back to Europe, he has perfectly put himself in the shop window for bigger challenges.
Back in Bulgaria, he was a constant feature for Plovdiv which sparked enquiries for his services and ended up berthing in India and he could well be on his way back to Europe.
The 1.98metres tall centre-back, at 27, is surely in the peak of his career and it can only better for this exciting defender whose straight and accurate shots have earned him more admirers.
Surely, Eze deserves more and bigger opportunities in more illustrious leagues, which will surely open the Super Eagles doors for him.
Prominent in the CHAN Eagles of 2016 and 2018, Eze should now take his game higher by graduating to the country’s main team, where Gernot Rohr was already an admirer before he left for Europe.
It may be a mountain to climb for him to actualise his Super Eagles dreams in India, but taking his game back to Europe and continuing his super performances will fix this for him.
Smart money will be on him to take his “Defend like Eze” campaign to Europe and then grab his chance in the Super Eagles.