JULIUS who? Phnom Penh’s football community was left wondering when a light-framed six-footer sporting a number 27 yellow jersey came out of the Naga Corp starting list on May 1 against the Ministry of National Defence side.
Within minutes of the start it was plain to even a casual eyes that Julius Oiboh would be the one to make a difference on the pitch. And he did just that. He fired in all three goals in Naga’s 3-1 victory, which set them on the road to recovery from a stuttering start to the season. A star was unveiled then and there.
At the end of it all, his claim on the Golden Boot was never under threat. In a matter of 14 weeks and as many games, the goal numbers only kept rising. Five hat-tricks included, his tally stood at 28, three more than last year’s top scorer Julius Ononiwu of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey.
During the season, there were hardly any defenders worth their salt he had not tormented, resilient backlines he had not broken through and toughest goal-keepers he had not beaten. It all came so naturally to him whenever he wanted them – intrinsic ball skills to go with a good turn of foot which he mixed up well to create space when none seemed to exist.
Whether he was dealing with tight markers (he was easily the most heavily marked man) or fighting aerial battles, his speed of foot always seemed to keep pace with the speed of his mind, and that perhaps explains away dozens of solo goals he produced during the season, much more than any in the business.
Like any other striker of his class and committment, Julius was always there for his colleagues up front with some stunning assists. His two defence splitters to his Nigerian compatriot Esoh Omogba leading to the first two goals against Phnom Penh Crown on Sunday were testimony to his extraordinary sense of link-play.
“He has been outstanding throughout the season and he has scored some amazing goals of sheer individual brilliance and he really brought us back into contention and remained a source of great inspiration to rest of his teammates,” Naga Corp coach Prak Sovanara reflected.
“For a player who came in as a virtual unknown, he was rather quick in getting into the collective consciousness of Cambodian football.
“You cannot keep a good striker like Julius quiet, not for long, and he has proved that point beyond doubt,” said Naga assistant coach Solomon, a fellow Nigerian who was the man behind the scenes in getting Julius to Cambodia.
“I came here determined to do well and I am happy it turned out well for me,” Julius said.
“I enjoyed playing for my team and I would have been far more happier if we had won the championship,” Julius recalled.
Interestingly though, Julius, who is in his early 20s, is already planning an exit of sorts and if his plans to move over to the Thai League click, he may well be sorely missed by Naga, and for that matter Cambodian football, next season.
“I am leaving for Thailand on Wednesday. The league season there is still a month to run and I will be assisting one of the second division sides in their promotion bid.
“I am on loan from Naga now and I will take my chances when the Thai transfer window opens in December,” Julius told the Post yesterday.
What if he doesn’t get the deal of his choice. “Then I am back,” he said.
There are few strikers who can score goals from anywhere on the pitch any time and against any opposition. Julius was the one who could, and that’s what made him so special during this Metfone C League season.