Victor Osimhen, the Nigerian forward, is donning a mask during the Africa Cup of Nations final against Ivory Coast. The Napoli star’s choice to wear one raises questions.
Osimhen is positioned as the primary striker for the Super Eagles in the AFCON final, boasting one goal and one assist in the tournament thus far.
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His team faces Ivory Coast, a team that has experienced managerial changes during the tournament, with Jean-Louis Gasset departing after a disappointing group stage.
Viewers observing the match would have undoubtedly noticed Osimhen sporting his mask, which gained notoriety following a facial injury he sustained.
The 25-year-old endured a fractured eye socket during a Serie A game in November 2021, requiring several months for complete recovery.
However, even after two years, Osimhen persists in wearing the mask during matches, despite being fully healed.
Napoli’s head doctor, Roberto Ruggiero, has disclosed that Osimhen’s ongoing use of the mask is primarily due to personal preference, as it provides him with a sense of security.
The doctor said to Italian outlet Radio Marte (via Tutto Napoli) in 2022: “Osimhen is perfectly healed, he’s still wearing the protective mask because it gives him a sense of security, but he’s healed.
“He has his own balance, and wants to wear it. Hopefully this mask will be enough until he feels safe and takes it off.”
However, in a recent interview, the player conceded that he will need to wear the mask for the entirety of his career.
He told Nigerian outlet Brilla (quotes via Daily Post Nigeria): “I have to wear the mask for the rest of my career because I have screws that actually pass through my jaws and face.
“The last match I played against Cagliari, when I headed the ball, I had blood on my face, and the goalkeeper also hit my face. There was blood, that was even with the mask on.
“So it is really dangerous for me to play without using the mask.”
Osimhen faced uncertainty due to an injury ahead of Nigeria’s semi-final victory against South Africa, experiencing abdominal discomfort.
Reportedly, he was deemed fit only the day prior to the match. Nonetheless, the 25-year-old received clearance to participate in the final for Nigeria. The team secured an early lead in the first half, courtesy of former Watford defender William Troost-Ekong.