We went from a European youth champion to Equatorial Guinea as a title seeker
22 years ago, the ball-collecting boy, Emilio Nassau, quickly flicked the ball to Samuel Eto'o, the Cameroonian striker of his city team, Real Mallorca. Today, he has become a seasoned striker and surprisingly tops the list of top goalscorers. At the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d'Ivoire, Eto'o won twice, topping its all-time list.
Born to a Spanish mother and Equatorial Guinean father, Nassauyi (34) has an inspiring story to tell between Mallorca and the ongoing Nations Cup in Cote d'Ivoire. He won two European Under-19 and 21 championships. With a Spanish shirt in 2007 and 2011, before deciding to play for the small African country's national team.
“For me, playing for Equatorial Guinea is one of the best decisions I've ever made,” Naswi told Agence France-Presse in an interview at the team hotel.
He continued: “This is not just a football result. Meeting my family was also a personal decision. “I'm very happy and proud of my decision.”
Equatorial Guinea entered the tournament in its fourth appearance, not many were concerned, but the team nicknamed “National Thunder” became the center of attention after suddenly leading a group that included Nigeria and Ivory with two wins and a draw. the beach
The team scored 9 goals, including 5 from Spanish third division intercity side Nasoy, 3 in a 4-2 win at Guinea-Bissau and 2 at Cote d'Ivoire, who they mercifully crushed 4-0.
Of that surprise win and the chances of progressing in the competition, the striker, wearing cross-shaped earrings in his ears, said: “We're thinking step by step, one thing at a time. We know we're a small team and we know anything can happen on the field.
He continued: “Right now, we're having fun and we want to keep having fun.”
Nazvi, who scored his first hat-trick in the tournament since 2008, could surpass Zaire striker Mulamba Ndia's record of nine goals in one edition since 1974 if he continues his tally.
He said with a smile: “I am ambitious, but frankly, I will sign the contract now if it is stipulated that I will score high in the competition.”
Equatorial Guinea, ranked 18th in Africa with a population of 1.8 million, is not a major power on the continent.
However, the country located in Central Africa has made significant progress in the last decade, fueled by hosting two African Cups of Nations in 2012 and 2015, with its best results in fourth place.
The “National Thunder” battalion, led by quiet local coach Juan Maicha since 2021, has been undefeated since June 2022.
After successful continental qualifiers, the team continued its good run and started the World Cup qualifiers with two wins, including a win over Liberia last November.
Nasvi said: “I think our most important strength is the team, because we've been playing together for about 8 or 9 years, so we're brothers.”
He continued: “We don't have big stars, but as a team I think we are the strongest in the whole of Africa.”
But he insisted in the interview: “As it continues, we have to continue in the same way and remain humble.”
Born and raised in Mallorca, Nazzavi's career took a turn after he won the European Under-21 Championship in 2011 alongside goalkeeper David De Gea, full-back Jordi Alba and midfielder Juan Mata. Played at the highest levels.
Despite “confidence in himself” to play for the Spanish national team from day one, after representing all the youth groups, Nazvi, then a Mallorca player in the Spanish league, decided to play for Equatorial Guinea because he “wanted to know. Where he came from.”
He said: “The Equatorial Guinea officials came and said, 'Please come and play with us. You will be the leader. You are young, but we believe you are the future.'
He continued: “So I thought about it and everything my father had explained to me” before.
When his plane landed in Malabo in early 2012, it was his first visit to his father's hometown. Since then, he has become a popular hero in Equatorial Guinea, scoring 23 goals in 41 matches.
Micha told Agence France-Presse, “The people of Equatorial Guinea are really grateful to him, you can see how much he loves his country.” She continued, “It's incredible to have someone like him, and I hope he stays with us for a long, long time.”
Naswi, who has scored more goals in the competition than Nigerian Victor Osimhen, Egyptian Mohamed Salah and Senegalese Sadio Mane, has surprisingly played at right back for a time.
Although he played as a striker for Mallorca and the Spanish youth teams, he played as a right-back for a few periods and discovered his tactical flexibility in 2014 when he moved to English club Middlesbrough.
He explained: “Michael Lautrup (Mallorca coach) said I'd be better as a winger because I'm physically strong. After I went to England with Aitor Karanga (Middlesbrough), he put me in an attacking right-wing position.
He smiled and continued: “After that, all the coaches told me I could play everywhere.” So last year I played centre-back, right-back, striker and midfielder. “I think it's a good thing for me.”
He added: “But honestly, I feel like a striker. I've played with the national team at this level for 12 years and I've played as a striker my whole career.”
He turns 35 this year and this could be his last AFCON tournament.
But in the eyes of his colleagues, he said: “My hero is Cristiano Ronaldo.” He is bigger than me. I care more about my body. I like to eat healthy. “For me, I don't think it will be the last, because I feel better than before.”
Major competitions usually see leaps and bounds in the careers of their champions, but Nazvi looks “happy and scoring goals” in a team where “life and the weather are beautiful” in the city of Alicante.
But he laughed and said: “You never know, maybe tomorrow someone will come with an offer you can't refuse, but I'm not really thinking about it.”