After a slow start to his international career, the athletic Chelsea forward was an inspirational attacking figure for Nigeria as they won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations last week by beating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final.
“If anybody had told me that I would be playing for Chelsea and winning the Nations Cup by the beginning of this year, I would not have believed it. It is like a dream. But it has taken a lot of hard work and I have been working hard week in and week out, and at the end of the day everything came out for me in a positive way,” Moses told FIFA.com.
It’s been a dramatic rise to the top for Moses, who was born in Nigeria but was smuggled out after his missionary parents were killed in religious rioting. Raised by foster parents in south London, the youngster turned to football and joined Crystal Palace’s academy after being scouted at his local school. Always considered a potential star, Moses debuted for the Eagles as a 16-year-old and signed a four-year contract with the club, but after becoming a regular in the 2009/10 season he was signed during the January transfer window by Wigan.
After a number of impressive performances for the Latics, he became a Chelsea target and after several offers had been rejected by Wigan, they finally accepted an offer right at the end of the transfer period in August last year – but not before Moses had played against his new club in the opening match of the Premier League season.
Moses was called up at youth level for England and played in all their youth teams. In 2007 he was the top scorer at the European Under-17 Championship and in the same year played in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. After failing to command a regular berth in the England under-21 side, he opted to play for the country of his parents, Nigeria. He later related his decision to journalists: “I played for England Under-16s, 17s, 18s, 19s, 20s and then 21s … then … I just decided to make the decision to play for Nigeria,” he said.
A delayed debut
His first start for the Super Eagles was twice delayed as Nigeria’s game against Guatemala, for which he had been called up in February 2011 was called off, while he could not play in matches against Kenya and Ethiopia a month later because the paper work for his switch had not been processed in time.
It was only in November of that year that he was cleared to play for Nigeria and since then he has not looked back, becoming an important part of Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles side that stunned the rest of the field to lift the AFCON title. Moses scored two goals during the campaign and was selected for the team of the tournament.
Moses is on record as saying that if he continues working hard as he does, he could end up playing for Barcelona. But for the time being, he is content being an African champion and playing for Chelsea. “It is an amazing feeling. It is good to win the Nations Cup since it had been a long wait. We were very delighted when we won it.”
As African champions the Super Eagles will represent their continent at the FIFA Confederations Cup in June. It is something that Moses is looking forward to. “It means a lot of me, but not only for me, for the whole nation it means a lot to represent Nigeria in Brazil. We are all looking forward to it. We are delighted to be going there.”
The Super Eagles have been drawn into Group B at the prestigious competition and will be facing the world champions Spain, as well as Uruguay and Tahiti, in the competition.
“I am looking forward to playing against Spain. It will be wonderful, not just for me, but for the other players as well. That we have the chance to play against some of the greatest players in the world is terrific. We are very happy, but the most important thing was to win the Nations Cup. With having actually done that, we are looking forward to Brazil.”