For Ermis Aradippou striker Marco Tagbajumi, this season has been a roller-coaster ride.
This time last year, the 25-year-old was left to rue another disappointing season in the second division after his former club APEP missed out on the chance to fight for promotion to the top flight.
Initially signed as a back-up striker and winger by Ermis boss Nicos Panagiotou, he has trail-blazed the Aradippou squad and has this season emerged as one of the big stars of the top division. His goals have not only helped propel Ermis into the top four but they have also contributed to steering the Aradippou club to their first ever Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup final. But the pinnacle for one-time English non-league player, is the fact that he will be playing Europa League football next season.
And all this from a player who admits that he came “from nowhere” to take the league by storm.
“I think I sent out a message that there is also quality in the second division,” he said in an interview yesterday with Sport Day. “I came from the second division and essentially from nowhere. I have never played in a European competition and I am delighted that I will get the chance to do so this summer.”
His achievement is even more impressive given the fact that two seasons ago he was let go by second division Paphos club Akritas Chlorakas after only managing to score five times in 21 appearances.
A move to APEP fared a little better as he scored almost a goal every other game but it still wasn’t enough to lift them into the top six promotion group.
But then came the chance of a lifetime. Ermis scouts had noticed the potential of Tagbajumi and knowing that he could be a cheap addition to the squad, decided to take a chance on him.
And Tagbajumi didn’t let that chance go begging.
This season, he has scored 17 times for Ermis and is just one goal behind leading scorer Gaston Sangoy of Apollon Limassol, although the Argentinean could miss the rest of the season after injuring his knee in a 2-1 defeat to Omonia on Sunday.
His goal also helped Ermis to a famous 2-1 win over title hopefuls APOEL at the GSP Stadium in what many see as a dress rehearsal of next month’s Cup final between the two sides at the same venue.
And Tagbajumi’s goal-scoring frenzy is no fluke after claiming that he set himself a personal target last season.
“I never told anyone this but I had a secret target before the league started which was to score 20 goals. I will do whatever I can to achieve that goal because that would just be incredible for me. But I won’t be disappointed if I don’t achieve it. I can still be very proud of what I have achieved this season.”
Born in the petroleum-rich Nigerian coastal town of Port Harcourt to an Italian father and Nigerian mother, Tagbajumi began his football career playing with non-league London Tigers in the Spartan South Midlands League back in 2008. His first season as a 20-year-old saw him score 13 times in 10 appearances for the Greenford club and he then decided to take his chance in the Portuguese second division with AD Camacha. But he struggled to pin down a first-team place in the squad scoring just three times in 32 appearances during his two seasons in Madeira.
It was from there that he had the chance to start over again but this time in the second division in Cyprus. After two seasons with Akritas and APEP, he got his chance when Ermis came knocking and has never looked back since. His recent performance against APOEL on Saturday is further proof that has well and truly established himself as the signing of the season.
“The win was brilliant,” he continued. “APOEL is a big side and every strong at home which is why I feel our win sent out a message although we have been doing that all season anyway. Everyone thought APOEL would beat us easily in the final but we proved our doubters wrong. The final will be 50-50 and a lot will depend on how we turn up on the day. After this victory, we showed that we have what it takes to win the Cup. We are a very good side and I am positive we will win it.”
When asked about the secret of his side’s remarkable success this season, he added, “our coach is really good and we also have a fantastic squad. We are a family and we fight for each other.
“When I see a teammate of mine not doing too well, I work even harder. We have a fighting spirit. We are still motivated although every game is different obviously.
“Sometimes, things don’t work out but that’s football. But we will fight in all of our remaining games.”