Obinna Nsofor joined West Ham United on a season-long loan from Inter Milan in the summer of 2010, with then Hammers boss Avram Grant signing the Nigerian striker. The Nigerian had a difficult time at the club and while he sometimes frustrated Hammers fans, he still provided a good number of exciting moments both in the Premier League and in the League Cup.
Obinna in Igbo literally means “Father’s heart.” After playing for local teams Plateau United and Kwara United, Obinna then signed for Brazilian club Internacional but was unable to actually play for them because of problems with getting International clearance. He returned home to play for Eyimba of Aba before signing for Serie A side Chievo Verona and being relegated with them.
After three seasons with Chievo in which he made 82 appearances and scored 19 goals, Obinna signed for Inter Milan, a club he had once had a trial for, in a deal worth €1.2 million. Despite being described by then Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho as “one of Inter’s best talents for the future,” Obinna was unable to break through for the Nerazzurri and ended up making just nine appearances, scoring one goal.
Blessed with pace and trickery, and the rare quality of being genuinely two-footed Obinna, could play anywhere across the front three – on the right, left or centrally. It was a shame that Obinna never really played up to his full potential as his time with Inter was marked by a series of loan deals which included Spanish club Malaga FC and eventually West Ham United.
While Obinna’s journey as a footballer is interesting, this is an analysis of his time, however short as a West Ham player. Let’s get down to it.
On the 27th of August 2010, Obinna signed for West Ham on a season-long loan deal, with the option of a permanent switch if West Ham should wish it. He made his debut in what turned out to be a disappointing game for West Ham as they lost a home London Derby 3-1 to Chelsea.
Obinna never really kicked on in the Premier League, but it was in the domestic cups that he showed glimpses of what he was truly capable of. It was in the League Cup that he scored his first goal for West Ham in a 2-1 win over Sunderland AFC, which secured the Hammers a place in the next round of the competition.
He had to wait until November for his first league goal but it was his exploits in the League Cup that would write his name in the memory of West Ham fans, as he got a hat-trick of assists in a memorable 4-0 win over Manchester United. That booked West Ham’s place in the League Cup semi-final for the first time in twenty years!
However, Obinna’s tendency to both excite and frustrate was again on show as he got himself sent off in the first leg of the semi-finals against eventual winners Birmingham FC, for an off-the-ball incident with Sebastian Larsson minutes after West Ham had conceded an equaliser.
He would go on to score a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and later scored a Premier League brace against Blackpool. His time with the Hammers remains a disappointment, though, and one is left with the feeling that he could have been so much more for the club.
West Ham decided not to take the option of a permanent deal and Obinna moved on to Russia to play for Lokomotiv Moscow. Obinna’s international career with Nigeria mirrored his time at West Ham as he endured a lot of “nearly” moments with the national team, finishing third in the African Nations Cup in 2006 before losing the Olympics to a solitary Di Maria goal in the final.
Obinna’s time at the club gave fans some wonderful moments but eventually left them with a sense of what might have been.