Nigeria goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi swapped their tops after the South Americans progressed at the expense of their opponents and that ordinarily should not be a big deal.
However, the jersey swap appears to be symbolic in a way or more.
The two players were part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in China where the Argentines triumphed 1-0 through Angel di Maria’s goal in the gold medal match for men.
After that match at the Bird’s Nest, Ezenwa and Messi did pose for pictures which will now serve as memories for the pair.
Of course at that time both men had no idea that their paths will cross 10 years on and this time in the Russian port city of Saint Petersburg where Nigeria’s Super Eagles were just few minutes away of reaching the last 16 at the FIFA World Cup.
Ezenwa watched from the bench as Messi scored the first, Victor Moses cancelled Argentina’s before Marcos Rojo broke the hearts of the Nigerian contingent with a late strike.
Interestingly, Messi was not the only Argentine player from their U23 squad of the Beijing Olympics in Jorge Sampaoli’s side. Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Federico Fazio and Ever Banega.
However Ezenwa is the only Nigerian player from that U23 Olympic side that made the Super Eagles squad to Russia.
The exit from the World Cup may have come early for the Enyimba stopper Ezenwa, his reunion with Messi and swapping of jerseys brings to the fore a rivalry that cuts beyond the senior level.
© The Predictor NG