‘My goals saved me’ : Gift Orban on Nigeria, escaping poverty and Ligue 1

Nigerian striker Gift Orban (21) is quite the character. Despite just one goal in nine appearances for Olympique Lyonnais since joining from Belgian outfit KAA Gent in January, he has already made his mark with his ferocious competitive spirit and presence in the dressing room, even going as far as to unsettle some of his teammates in his first weeks at the club. 

Speaking to L’Équipe, Orban responded to quotes from Alexandre Lacazette claiming that his blunt way of communicating surprised the team at first: 

“People don’t know me, but that’s me. I say what I think, I tell the truth. If you do something I don’t like, I won’t do anything behind your back, I will stand in front of you and say it. I’m not a hypocrite, I am direct and I don’t have a problem with anyone here. I try to be nice to everyone, to come to training and share my joy.

I’m a little bit like this, If you see me from afar, you’ll tell yourself that I’m a bit weird, but once you get close to me, you’ll realise I’m easy-going and respectful. You just need to know me. I’ve experienced some things in life that make me like this, I am not afraid of anything.”

Orban left Nigeria aged 19 to sign for Norwegian outfit Stabaek, leaving behind a different life that the forward is not too keen to talk about. In 2023, 12% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty resided in Nigeria, a country booming in both economic and population terms. This hardship is a sad reality for millions of Nigerians and Africans as a whole, and Orban and his family were no exceptions: 

” I can’t explain it because you can’t understand. You were born in Europe, it’s not like being born in Africa. If you’re poor in France, the state can help you, charities can help you and take care of you. In Africa, no one gives you anything and you die of hunger. That’s why we all want to play football.

Where I grew up, if you’re in a poor family, life is impossible. That’s what gives you determination, you don’t want to relive that. You had to find food every day. Now, I want to succeed in life in order to be able to help. Not only my family, that’s already obviously the case, but I want to help all poor people, orphans, who had the life I had, sometimes even worse. Do you understand the word ” Poor”? 

There is poor in Europe and poor in Africa. You can’t compare, it’ll never be the same. You need to have lived it like I have. You get up in the morning and you find nothing to eat, don’t ask me to go into detail.”

In terms of the goalscoring on which the Nigerian youngster has built his reputation, netting 32 times in 52 appearances for Genk, Orban has always been passionate about putting the ball in the net: 

“When I was a kid, my only concern was getting the ball into the goal, even when it was in my half. I was capable of shooting from distance if I saw the goalkeeper in a poor position. If I was told to make ten passes before scoring, I’d rather score directly. The most important thing is putting the ball in the goal, so I have that in the blood. Goals saved me and changed  my life. I scored goals because I wanted to escape, I managed to leave Africa thanks to that talent.

” When I arrived in Norway, it was difficult for me, I even went back to Nigeria for a while, then they gave me a three month contract. That was my chance, the manager let me play and I scored twice in successive games. I really had to organise my game. When I turned professional, I understood there would be highs and lows. We can’t win all the time, it was a difficult adaptation but I had to get on with it. 

Now for example, I find it hard to play as a lone striker because I am used to playing with two, it’s better for me, but I have to get on with it and move forward.

When I arrived at Lyon, I knew I had to be patient, even if I’m not a patient person. I want to play. I know my chance will come and even if I only play 10 or 15 minutes, I will try and best to help the team. 


It seems like a matter of time before Orban becomes a regular in a resurgent Lyon team. If he can channel his temperament and aggression in a positive way on the field, it seems inevitable that the Nigerian will become a huge asset for Les Gones. 

GFFN | Jack McArdle




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