CAPE TOWN - Since their inception as a PSL club in June last year, the catchphrase at Cape Town City has been “we are changing lives”.
In a short space of time, they have certainly lived up to that slogan: support on the terraces and on the streets is growing; previously unknown locals like Taariq Fielies and Craig Martin have been plucked from obscurity to star in the PSL; they’ve rejuvenated the careers of Robyn Johannes and Thamsanqa Mkhize; and even a 30-year-old Nigerian, like Victor Obinna, with extensive experience on the European stage, can feel the buzz of excitement. In short, City, in their own mantra, are changing lives.
In September, City signed Obinna on a free transfer, with the much-travelled striker keen on resurrecting a career that had stalled. On Saturday, just a month later, the Nigerian has an opportunity to play in a major cup final when City take on SuperSport United in the climax of the MTN8 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban (kick-off 7pm).
Just a short while ago, Obinna was unsure of what his next career move would be. Now he’s lining up in a cup final - changing lives, indeed.
“I actually didn’t expect it to happen so soon," said Obinna. "But it’s a good thing for me and the team. We just have to give our best to try and win this final.”
“I’m adapting fast,” he added, “thanks to the help of my teammates, the technical staff and everybody at the club. They’ve made sure that everything goes smoothly for me, and helped me to settle down pretty quickly.”
In 2005, Obinna had a spell with Chievo in Italy, after which he moved on to Inter Milan in Serie A. He also went on to play for Málaga in Spain, West Ham in England, Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia and MSV Duisburg and SV Darmstadt in Germany. And it was at West Ham that he became teammate of City head coach Benni McCarthy.
“Victor is a good friend of mine, I know him from his days with the Nigerian national team when he used to be a striker partner to Obafemi Martins. I came across him at West Ham, that’s where we played together,"McCarthy explains.
"He was young then and I took him under my wing. We became friends and have always kept in touch over the years. When I learnt he was free, I asked him to come down to City.”
Obinna acknowledged that McCarthy’s presence as City coach was one of the main reasons he decided to sign for City.
“For me, it was important to come to a team that really believes in what it is looking for,” said Obinna. “City are a new club that only came into place two years ago. The most important person that made it possible for me to come here was McCarthy.
"He is someone I respect as a person and I have a good relationship with him. In fact, the club as a whole wanted me to come, and that is the main purpose why I am playing my football at City.
“The PSL is improving, and it has been improving year after year. You can see that in the awareness it has created in players from other countries, even from Europe, who are keen to come over. With that, it has improved the quality and it is this aspect that the PSL needs to emphasise more. It is getting to a level now where the competition and the quality of the game are getting higher each year.”
The Nigerian has already made an impact with the winning goal in derby against neighbours Ajax Cape Town - and he’s hoping to make a contribution in Saturday’s final against SuperSport as well. At this stage, though, McCarthy is not rushing the striker as he believes the player still lacks sharpness.
“You can see his quality and intelligence, his movement, how he holds the ball up and lets other players in,” said the City coach. “It’s why I brought him here you can’t doubt his talent. He will get better as the season progresses.”