Having previously covered Guinea Bissau, we move onto out second Guinea of the series. Equatorial Guinea is located in Central Africa but, contrary to what the name suggests, is not crossed by the equator. The country has had only one Premier League representative and isn’t known for its sporting prowess. During the 2000 Olympics, Equatorial Guinea was put on the map due to the famous swimmers, ‘Eric the Eel’ and ‘Paula the Crawler’. Both athletes set astonishingly slow times as Eric simultaneously set the record for the slowest Olympic time in the 100m freestyle and the Equatorial Guinea record for the fastest recorded time. Their national football has recently dropped 13 places to 135th in the latest FIFA rankings. They co-hosted the AFCON in 2012, which was the first time they had made it to the finals of the tournament. Impressively, they were only knocked out in the quarter-finals after losing 3-0 to the Ivory Coast.
Emilio Nsue (Middlesbrough 2016-17)
Emilio Nsue is the latest in a long line of players in this series, who have all strived to play for countries way beyond their skill level, only to eventually settle for a much, much lower standard instead. Having been born in Spain, Nsue repeatedly turned down offers to play for Equatorial Guinea, his father’s country, to focus on representing Spain at youth levels. It was only in 2013, after he’d failed to make the progression from Spanish U21s to the national team, that he decided it was best to settle his sights much, much lower. Nsue made his debut against Cape Verde and scored a hat-trick as captain…dream start to his career. However, the 2014 World Cup Qualifier was later forfeited as a 3-0 loss as Equatorial Guinea had fielded an ineligible player. The player in question was a certain Emilio Nsue Lopez.
Nsue started his career with Mallorca where he operated as a striker or a forward of some description. However, by 2011, he was used primarily as a right wing back, the position where he has ended up playing more most of his career. I like to think that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain followed Nsue and used his career trajectory as motivation for swapping Arsenal for Liverpool, in a desperate attempt to save his midfield career. He was signed up by Middlesbrough as a free agent in 2014. In his first season with the club, Boro made it to the Championship Playoff Final, but they would ultimately miss out after losing to Norwich City. Nevertheless, they made it the following season and Nsue would have his first go in the top flight. As we all know, the season was a disaster as Middlesbrough were relegated immediately and Nsue was offloaded to Birmingham City for a fee in the region of £1million. Here he has become a consistent starter and a key player in the setup. He is still deployed mostly as a right back.
Like any modern footballer, Nsue has had a tough time picking a hairstyle to run with. He has had thin, shoulder-length cornrows while with Real Sociedad, a grade-one shave Mohican while with Boro and an afro-bun most recently with Birmingham. All this terminology may not be 100% spot on but I hope I have painted you a sufficient word picture.
Gambia, or to give it it’s proper name, THE Gambia is the smallest country in the whole of mainland Africa. It is completely surrounded all side by Senegal, which I imagine is a very intimidating feeling although it probably doesn’t affect Gambians in their day-to-day life. It is incredibly densely populated, however, and homes more people than Equatorial Guinea. Sadly, it doesn’t home better footballers as they sit at 164th in depths of the FIFA rankings. The national team, known as the Scorpions have never qualified for a major tournament, but do have an impressive four different colours on their home kit. I know for sure which feat is more prestigious.
Modu Barrow (Swansea City 2014-17)
By age nine, Modu Barrow has a successful gardening business with his 11-year-old brother in Gambia. However, after the death of his mother, he moved to Sweden with his father where he made many friends due to his impressive footballing ability. After several seasons playing professionally in Sweden he made a move to Swansea City in 2014, for a fee in the region of £1.5million. He caught the eye of manager Gary Monk by scoring ten goals in just 19 games for second division side, Ostersunds FK. Although Omar Koroma spent two seasons with Portsmouth he never made it onto the field, therefore, Barrow was the first player to represent the Gambia in the Premier League.
Barrow started his career in Wales with the number 58 on his back but unfortunately, this was far from the number of goals he was going to score for the club. After making scoring just once in over 50 appearances he was made available for sale. He said he wants to play a style of football that will get fans on their feet but trust me, that goal return will do quite the opposite. Anyone who plays twenty times for a team managed by Bob Bradley has really had the kiss of death put on their career. He had several loan spells with Forest, Blackburn and Leeds but never found a new home. He joined Reading this summer for an undisclosed fee, which is at least £1.25million.
Barrow is a rare player who actually wants to play for his home nation. He pulled out of the Sweden U21s squad with an injury, before announcing that he was committing his future to Gambia.