Penn Orji is far removed from the big, bustling muscle mass that makes African footballers such sought after properties in Indian football since Chima Okorie exploded in the mid-80s. Orji, a playmaker, is small even by Indian standards. On Wednesday evening, he was the shortest player to line up for East Bengal in their AFC Cup pre-quarter final against Yangon United here.
Edeh Chidi adheres more to the African archetype. Even from high up in the media box at the Salt Lake stadium you can see the striker’s muscles rippling under lights.
They complemented each other so beautifully that East Bengal stormed into the quarter-finals with a 5-1 win against Yangon United having had a foot there by the second minute. Before the half-hour mark, the door looked shut on Yangon United. It was bolted by the 47th minute and this time, Orji deserved credit for actually doing nothing: that is if you call selling a dummy doing nothing.
Orji moved himself away from Chidi’s hook-back and Mehtab Hossain banged home from 20 yards. At the pre-match media conference on Tuesday, Hossain had spoken about assuaging some of the hurt of losing to Mynamar in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers by winning this one. He did, in some style.
At the same media conference, Hossain’s coach Trevor Morgan said this was an opportunity to put East Bengal on the map of Asia. Morgan had promised to not leave anything in the changing room. Rarely has a coach and his team walked the talk thus.
In 2009, Chidi’s four goals helped Mohun Bagan pump five for the first time against East Bengal. Few players have managed to be Mohun Bagan and East Bengal’s darling in their career. On Wednesday, this Nigerian became part of that rare breed.