He has scored three goals in as many matches during the group stages at the current 28th edition of Orange African Cup of Nations, and has been hailed as Gabonese equivalent to Cameroon’s star striker Samuel Eto’o. But all that will be history unless Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang helps Les Panthers past Mali into the semi-finals.
The 22-year-old lanky striker, born in France and currently playing for French Ligue 1 side St Etienne, has been the revelation of a tournament lacking quality strikers after the disappointment of losing Senegal’s quartet –Demba Ba, Mamadou Niang, Moussa Sow and Papiss Cisse following their team’s shock exit.
Aubameyang’s movement, work rate and creativity have also been exciting for the tournament which has lacked spark in the final third. It is no coincidence he has been hailed as the ‘Eto’o’ of the tournament by locals, who perhaps have wished the Russian-based striker was part of the tournament. Eto’o watched Gabon’s opening match against Niger.
Audrey Minto’o, a tomatoe dealer in small trading centre about 3kms from the stadium, has not seen either player (Aubameyang and Eto’o) in action but was full of adulation for the Gabon forward.
She said: “Ceci est notre Eto’o fils.” This writer, who can barely understand French, had to rely on a guide who translated what the lady meant. “This is our son Eto’o,” the Minto’o said.
Claude Le Roy, on commentary duty for one of French Radios, is also impressed with the young striker. “He has shown great insight on his game; the three goals he scored have shown how mature he is. He is a player who is both technical and agile. He has many other qualities.”
And Aubameyang himself? “The team spirit has made us strong. Our coach (Gernot Rohr) has told us to fight for each and every ball, be aggressive and fight to the end. We showed that against Morocco when we scored three late goals.
“Our goal is to win this trophy. I would be glad if my goals help the team to win,” explained the striker with a hairstyle similar to Neymar’s cockscomb. Aubameyang started his professional career with Italian giants AC Milan.
He then joined French sides Dijon (2008-09), Lille (2009-10) and Monaco (2010-11), all on loan until sealing a switch to Saint-Etienne last December.