Sikiru Alimi has the typical build of an active athlete and spots the scraggly beards that is trendy amongst contemporary youths globally. But his appearances does not give a hint of his push and drive on the pitch, a monstrous chase that covers almost every blade of grass on the field in pursuit or possession of the ball.
Sunday, April 29 was his moment at the Akure Township stadium where he was formally presented the award plaque for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) VAT Wonder Goal Award following his overwhelming selection by fans who cast votes for nominees including his closest rival, Chijioke Alaekwe of FC IfeanyiUbah. Incidentally their goals came off the match between their clubs, though FC IfeanyiUbah won 3-1 on the day.
Done with the presentation made by Mr. Ishola Akingbade, Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, Coordinator for Kwara, Ondo and Ekiti States but who was represented by the Ondo State Tax Controller, Lawal Bashir, the player joined his mates for the business of Match Day 19 against league leaders, Lobi Stars.
The fixture last season produced sparks and some controversy that led to Sunshine Stars sanctioned by the League Management Company (LMC). This time, the hosts spared nothing to chance and while the gates were thrown open for fans, security was heightened with stern looking operatives barking out queries to persons deemed to be going into prohibited areas.
The first half was delightful as both sides played good passing games, seeking to breach the other's backline. While possession may have been near even, it was Sunshine Stars that made the most effort at breaking the deadlock with three direct attempts at goal that were thwarted by goalkeeper Olukayode Femi who ended up the man of the match.
Alimi was in the thick of all offensive play by the hosts, running back on occasions to tackle, receive passes and at other times fending off markers to provide or lay passes to mates. He was rewarded with a penalty midway into the second half when a defender clattered into him inside the box.
Alimi picked himself up, grabbed the ball and took the spot kick. It wasn't a poor kick but Olukayode was having a good day and guessed right to dive and parry out the ball. The match would end 1-1 thanks to added time equaliser by Sunshine Stars after they were taken for dead following Samad Kadiri's goal that put Lobi ahead about ten minutes to the end.
"We have seen big players all over the world miss penalties", offered Alimi with no hint of regret even as he added, "naturally, I feel bad not scoring that penalty but it happens in football. My kick was good but the goalkeeper timed it right".
On the VAT Wonder Goal Award, he let a smile slip and wiped off sweat from his forehead as he spoke of the motivation that comes from being honoured.
"It is the reason I work hard besides trying to help my club win. The award is very motivating and I will continue to perfect my game to make sure I win more for my club and for the opportunity to support charity", continued Alimi who also chipped in that he has always supported charity personally.
"I am happy the FIRS and the League is helping us do charity work which is something I have always done in my own little way. I want to thank the organisers and also promise to do my best to fight for the award".
On a last note, Alimi would not end without expressing worries for his club which he insisted is playing far better than the result they have obtained so far. "We have a very good team, the players are doing their best but we are not where we are supposed to be on the table and we will continue to work to get there, which is the top or near the top|".