At the grand age of 37, many would have expected Rabiu Ali not to be playing football at the highest level, yet, his contributions in helping Nigeria reach the first ever African Nations Championship – after 3 unsuccessful attempts – cannot be over-stated.
The Old-Soldier-Never-Retires has been coolness personified.
Often, praises are showered more at illustrious Super Eagles stars playing at decent or premier leagues in Europe however, the contributions of Ali in Nigerian football – despite being a long-term home based player – has not gone unnoticed to some of us hence we salute the veteran midfielder.
In the CHAN tournament thus far, Ali has been decent but not been overly outstanding – but come on! what were you expecting from a 37 year old geezer?
In Nigeria’s 0:0 group match against Rwanda, the midfield marshall was the most tactically gifted player in the team. His deadly shot against the crossbar from all of 40 yards in the first half did not go unnoticed as was the fact Ali continued running till the end.
In Nigeria’s historic 1:0 semi finals against stubborn Sudan, the patriot covered grounds and made runs into the box; dishing out through passes and also helped the Eagles hang on to possession when they needed to – while he was on the pitch.
Some argued that he should have done more in the tournmanet but what’s beyond doubt is that Ali’s contributions in the midfield aided the Super Eagles' passage to the final with a date with hosts Morocco this weekend.
Will he do it? Will Ali’s experience inspire the Eagles to be African champions? We will have to wait and see.