Having looked at five African players from five less renowned African footballing nations in Part 1 of this two-part series, Part 2 focuses on five more African footballers from five lesser-known African footballing countries and where would be best for their next move. The five players considered in this article come from Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Chad, Malawi and Sierra Leone.
Mariano Ondo (Age: 21, Position: Right Back, Country: Equatorial Guinea)
Ondo broke through at international level at the 2018 African Nations Championships (CHAN) where he performed well for his country at right-back. He is a short and stocky player standing at 1.72m. Despite this, he is surprisingly effective in aerial battles and appears to relish physical duels as illustrated by his strong and determined tackling. Although he is prone to mistiming his tackles leading to fouls or opponents evading him. He needs to work on this by staying on his feet more and jockeying opponents with physical pressure to force a mistake from them rather than always trying to win the ball.
Ondo has good speed and stamina but is somewhat stiff. This means he can take time to change direction, especially, when an opponent moves the ball past him, and he must change his body position to match the opponent’s movements to reach the ball first and/or tackle them to prevent them from progressing into more dangerous areas. He can improve his agility by repetition of training exercises which force him to move in different directions quickly and explosively.
Ondo is more of a conservative full-back who does not bomb forward and make underlapping and overlapping runs. Instead preferring to stay behind the play and ensure he is in a good defensive position if there is a turnover. In possession, he has a sound first touch and keeps things simple whilst also having the composure to retain the ball in defensive areas under pressure if needed. To add more value to his team offensively he needs to become more adventurous in possession and with his off-the-ball runs. He can do this by driving forward with the ball if he has little pressure and there is space to run into as well as making overlapping runs to provide an additional attacking option, create an overload or stretch the opposition’s defence.
Sometimes Ondo is slow to check if there is a runner outside of him and tends to be reactive rather than proactive in positioning himself correctly to defend when play is switched from the other wing or from central areas to his side of the pitch. He can improve this part of his game by ensuring he has a more open body stance facing outwards and constantly glancing over his shoulder to check if there is an opponent running outside of him and adjust his position as required.
Ondo’s solid performances at the 2018 CHAN earned him a move to North Macedonian club FK Shkupi. Unfortunately, his spell was unsuccessful, and he returned home to Equatoguinean club Cano Sport around six months later. Clearly, he failed to adapt, therefore his next move should be to another African club playing at a higher level. A good next move for him would be to Cameroonian Elite One (Cameroon’s top division) club Union Douala. They are one of the better and more successful Cameroonian clubs and adding a player like him would enhance their right-flank. He should receive plenty of game-time and it will be easier for him to cope with the change in environment from his homeland. If he can play well for Union Douala that can help relaunch his stalled career and could lead to a move to a club in a more lucrative league.
Stan Esther (Age: 19, Position: Centre Back, Country: Seychelles)
Despite Esther’s tender age, he is already a regular at centre-back for the Seychelles national team appearing in six of their last seven games. He looks quite tall and is surely at least 1.85m which is a good height for a centre-back. As he is still young, he has not filled out yet and has a lanky, thin frame. He needs to add more muscle to his upper body and legs to make him sturdier as he is sometimes easily unbalanced due to his lack of strength. This can be done through a tailored strength and conditioning programme. He is not particularly quick and due to his height; it takes him longer to reach full speed. This can be problematic when he is deployed in a higher line as seen in the 7-0 defeat versus Rwanda in FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifier. When balls were played over the top, between the defensive lines and down the sides he struggled to turn and pick up speed quickly to recover his position and block crosses or stop shots. As part of a tailored strength and condition programme he could work on his agility, turning speed and explosiveness. This would help improve his agility and acceleration as well as provide him with some marginal gains in his overall speed.
Defensively Esther has promise. He is excellent in the air and towers above most attackers. He times his jumps well and shows aggression and hunger to be victorious in aerial duels. Additionally, he is rarely rash when defending an opponent 1v1 and shows calmness in his approach by staying on his feet and focusing on where the ball is before making a well-executed, forceful tackle. His positional sense and discipline are inconsistent; sometimes he places himself in the perfect position to cover for his teammate and prevent a goalscoring opportunity whereas on other occasions he will be caught failing to recover his position with an opponent in a dangerous area where he should be placed. This is unsurprising for a young player like him. He will become more consistent in his positional understanding as he matures and plays at a higher level. Alongside this, he needs to ensure he is continually scanning the pitch and glancing over his shoulder to monitor where his closest opponents are, tracking their movements and positioning himself to limit their ability to receive the ball unmarked.
In possession, Esther does not display technical excellence but is decent enough with the ball to play some effective forward passes to help the build-up. Also, when receiving the ball under pressure he will not simply punt the ball up the field unless necessary. Instead, he will take a touch, assess his available passing options and try to pass forwards. His forward passing from the back is occasionally problematic because he sometimes plays wayward forward passes that are intercepted by opponents in his team’s defensive third placing his team in danger of conceding a goal. Providing he learns from his mistakes in this regard, works on his passing technique and is not discouraged from trying to pass out from the back, the accuracy and reliability of his passing from defence should increase over time.
Esther’s international performances have shown he can play at a higher level than in the Seychelles. As such his next move should be to a club like Kenyan Premier League side Wazito. They are above mid-table in the league and will be hoping to have a successful season. Moving to Wazito would provide Esther with the opportunity to compete with better quality teammates, opponents and develop his game. At his age, he has already shown that he has the tools to grow and eventually become a good player at Kenyan Premier League level. If he could adapt and become a regular for Wazito, after a couple of seasons he could then potentially make a move to a better performing club either in Kenya or in another similar level league.
Eric Mbangossoum (Age: 20, Position: Defensive Midfield, Country: Chad)
Mbangossoum currently plays for Moroccan second division club UTS Tourougi. He has a languid and relaxed style on the ball which is evident in the way he controls and manipulates the ball as well as how he strokes his passes. He displays a good passing range, in particular, he regularly produces impressive inside of the right foot floated passes from a deep central zone to teammates stood in wide areas or over the defence for an attacking teammate to run on to. His passing range is complimented by his vision which enables him to spot teammates in better and more advanced positions to initiate attacks from deep. An important aspect of his passing is that he likes to always pass forward. This is a riskier approach, but it helps move the ball into forward areas faster. However, he sometimes plays forward passes when there is not a clearly available attacking option to receive the ball. This results in possession being lost unnecessarily. He therefore needs to tweak his game to better assess when to play forward passes and when to recycle possession with a sideways or backwards pass. This will likely come with more experience and better coaching.
Mbangossoum has an ideal physical profile for the defensive midfield role. He is 1.85m, has a solid frame along with decent speed, balance and stamina. His strength enables him to outcompete opponents physically and use his frame to win the ball from them as they try to go past him. While his speed enables him to match most opponents stride for stride and make a challenge as they attempt to drive past him. His balance helps him change direction and adjust his body position effectively to put in accurate tackles when opponents attempt to maneuver past him. Although he has demonstrated sufficient stamina to cover the ground, press opponents and cover for teammates caught out of position, he should seek to improve it further if he wants to impress and become dominant at a higher level. Better endurance will help increase how often he can make interceptions, recover loose balls, make tackles, and produce high-intensity sprints to recover his position if caught higher up the pitch and close down opponents. He can improve his fitness by doing regular high-intensity interval training.
In ground duels, Mbangossoum is aggressive and purposeful. He is happy to put his foot in and make tackles. His stamina also comes in handy as he can harry and hassle opponents in possession forcing them to make quicker decisions than they would like on the ball. However, he can make improvements to the defensive side of his game. He sometimes shows a lack of awareness of an opponent who has found space between him and his centre-backs by getting drawn to the ball rather than moving to block passing lanes to prevent the opponent in that space receive the ball. In turn, leaving more space behind him and making it easier for the ball to be played into an opponent in that space. He can improve this area of his game by being more disciplined when the opposition’s midfielders have the ball. Instead of instinctively pressing the opposition’s midfielders he should hold his defensive midfield position more often and shuttle across the pitch as the opposition’s midfielders move the ball, while glancing around his vicinity to check if any opponent has moved into space behind him. In doing so, if he identifies an opponent has found space in a dangerous area between his midfield position and the defence’s line he can react by moving slightly in front of them to block the passing lane and force the opponent in possession to make a different less threatening pass.
A move to Norwegian club Odds BK would be a wise next step for Mbangossoum. The Norwegian league is due to start again relatively soon and if he could join for pre-season that would be great. They currently only have one recognized defensive midfielder, 18-year-old youngster Filip Ronningen Jorgensen who became first choice last season. Mbangossoum would therefore have more opportunities to play across all competitions. He would probably be afforded regular minutes off the bench and could be thrust into the team if injuries arose. They should sign Mbangossoum because he would be an able deputy and could step in to replace Jorgensen as a substitute, if he was injured or if he was sold to a more prestigious club within the next year or two. At 20 years of age, Mbangossoum has the talent to be developed and refined into a very good player who like Jorgensen could then be sold for a sizeable profit.
Peter Banda (Age: 20, Position: Right/Left Wing, Country: Malawi)
Band currently plays for Malawi’s biggest club Nyasa Big Bullets and is comfortable playing on either wing. He has good speed and an impressive burst of acceleration which is useful when he attempts to dribble past opponents in wide areas. Alongside this his agility and balance combined with neat touches and skillful moves like step-overs allow him to weave past opponents and cause danger to opposition defences. In particular, he likes to receive the ball on the wing, slow down almost to a standstill, sometimes while performing step overs, to draw the opponent close to him and then speed up the tempo unexpectedly by exploding past them with quick-fire touches. Despite his ability and willingness to take on opponents in 1v1 situations he is lightweight which means he is outmuscled more often than he should be, resulting in him losing possession. He therefore needs to improve his upper body strength through a strength and conditioning regime. This would help him handle the physicality of more demanding leagues. Increasing his strength will also increase his explosiveness when driving at opponents thus making him a more dangerous proposition for defenders.
When Banda plays on the left-wing, he retains an air of unpredictability in his attacking play. Sometimes he will cut inside with the ball and attempt to dribble past opponents then shoot, pass or cross. On other occasions, he will dribble to the byline and play crosses with his weaker left foot. This is an important aspect of his wing play that he should continue to adopt as his career progresses.
Banda needs to work on his crossing as it is very inconsistent. As a young player, he has plenty of time to work on this. To improve this area of his game he needs to work on his crossing in training. He could spend a couple of hours after training every day crossing with both feet from the wide areas near the byline but also deeper to improve his crossing techniques. If applied over time this will help him become a more consistent crosser with better crossing variety.
Sometimes Banda can go missing in games because he fails to take up positions on the wing where he can easily receive the ball. When his team’s defenders have the ball, he will be stood in a zone too high upfield where he cannot receive the ball and when his team’s midfielders have the ball, he is too static in his movement that he cannot create enough distance between himself and his nearest marker for his teammate to view him as a viable passing option. Consequently, during games, he needs to ensure he is consistently moving and showing for the ball in different areas, at different angles on the flank he occupies. He can do this by dropping deep, staying on the touchline, moving into the channels, making vertical runs in behind and diagonal runs in behind from the touchline towards the box and from the box towards the touchline. This will help him receive the ball more often and therefore be more involved throughout matches.
Banda is currently undergoing a month-long trial with perennial Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol. This could be a decent move for him as he should be able to star at that level like fellow Malawian international teammate Charles Petro. An alternate move that would be a good step-up for Banda would be transferring to Cape Town City. They are performing well in the South African DsTV Premiership (South Africa’s top-flight) but need more youthfulness and extra quality in the wide areas. He would provide both. If he can improve on the aspects referred to above, he has the quality to become a potent threat at that level within two years. Potentially enabling him to gain a higher profile move afterwards.
Musa Noah Kamara (Age: 20, Position: Centre-Forward, Country: Sierra Leone)
Kamara is a young striker with interesting qualities. He is a tall, muscular and robust striker who uses his size and strength to destabilize opposition defences. These attributes enable him to hold off defenders with his back to goal and keep possession. Whilst they also make him a menacing aerial threat particularly from crosses and set pieces. In addition, his physicality and upwards spring makes him effective at winning headers from goal kicks and long-balls. Plus, he is decent at flicking headers on to teammates making runs in behind him. Though it should be noted that he sometimes mistimes his leaps which results in him barging and fouling opponents attempting to head the ball. Therefore, he needs to work on the training ground to better time his aerial challenges.
Kamara has a long, loping stride when running for the ball as he straightens his back and extends his legs far in front of his body to cover the ground. Despite having quite an unorthodox running style he has adequate speed to concern defenders when running at full pelt over longer distances. Due to his size, he takes time to pick up speed which makes him slow to react to through balls or second balls. He can improve upon his reaction speed and acceleration by working on explosive movements over 5-10-yard distances.
Kamara has shown himself to have a reliable first touch and the strength to handle physical pressure from markers. He cleverly ensures he places his sizeable frame between the ball and the opponent when direct, longer balls are sent to him which makes it difficult for opponents to intercept these balls. As a result, he regularly draws fouls in midfield and attacking areas from over-eager defenders seeking to win these balls which relieves pressure on his team’s defence and helps them advance up the field.
From a technical standpoint, Kamara has much room for improvement. He looks ungainly when trying to dribble or change direction with the ball. He can improve this by doing training ground drills focused on manipulating and moving with the ball in tight and spacious areas with and without pressure as well as exercises that improve his agility such as exercises that focus on forwards, backwards and lateral movements.
The limited footage available on Kamara makes it hard to ascertain the consistency and quality of his finishing. Although it was evident in the games reviewed that he had good movement in the box which enabled him to find space unmarked to attack floated crosses with his head.
Kamara has outgrown the Sierra Leonean Premier League despite his young age and should move to a higher-level league in this window or in summer 2021. He joined Swedish second-tier side Trelleborgs back in August 2019 however he left shortly after joining, with claims that he disliked the cold conditions in Sweden. He also had a short spell between October 2019 and January 2020 with Ethiopian club Hadiya Hossana. He therefore needs to make the right move to a club where he can settle easily and improve as a player. A good move in this window would be to Cypriot club Anorthosis Famagusta. The climate in Famagusta is relatively similar to Sierra Leone and football-wise they only have two centre-forward options one of whom, Giogio Kvilitaia, is only on loan until the end of the season. He can learn from Kvilitaia, an experienced target man, and replace him next season after six months of adaptation and learning. During this time, he could also receive plenty of minutes off the bench that would further aid his development and prepare him to lead the line next season.