Karl Namnganda says the Central African Republic must “dream of the impossible” after their shock victory over Nigeria in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.
The 25-year-old scored his first-ever international goal in stoppage time in Lagos on Thursday inflicting the Super Eagles’ first home loss in a World Cup qualifier since October 1981.
CAR are two points behind Group C leaders Nigeria and face Gernot Rohr’s side again on Sunday – only the group winners reaching the play-offs next March for Qatar.
“I won’t lie, I think about it [qualifying for the World Cup]”Namnganda said.
“Everything is possible in football. With our young team, we dream.
“And in football, to go far you have to dream of the impossible. We have to use the momentum and give everything we have.”
Namnganda only made his debut for the Central African Republic, ranked 124th in the world, in the previous international window in September.
But the forward, who plays for Les Herbiers, a fourth tier amateur team in France, confidently seized his chance after coming on as a substitute.
“In my head, I had already seen that the goalkeeper was not on his line,” he said.
“When the ball came in (the goal), I was looking for the camera to thank our fans and my family.
“I was running left, right and couldn’t find the camera and at the same time all my teammates entered the pitch. I didn’t know it was going so fast!”
Nigeria are the fifth-ranked team in Africa and the Super Eagles had several Premier League players in their roster against CAR.
Watford defender William Troost-Ekong, Brentford midfielder Frank Onyeka and Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho all started with Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, the most expensive African player in history.
The Central African Republic, for its part, does not have a professional player in its squad.
Atletico Madrid midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, star captain of the Wild Beasts, decided to take a break from international duties in August after a dispute with the country’s federation.
“It’s impressive to play against them,” Namnganda said.
“When we got to the stadium it was funny to see the Nigerians. Osimhen I watch scoring goals with Napoli and he’s a player I admire.
“Moïse (Simon), since I play in the Nantes region, I see him every weekend with FC Nantes (in French Ligue 1).
“I was disappointed not to start the game. But with hard work and determination, it is possible to turn the tide.”
Messages from the Central African diaspora
The African Football Confederation (CAF) has not allowed the Central African Republic to play its home games in Bangui, and the second leg against Nigeria will instead take place in Douala, Cameroon.
As a result, Namnganda will not be able to perform in front of his family in a country he left at the age of one to live in France.
“My father texted me to tell me that family members in CAR were asking me if it was really me or if it was someone else,” he said.
“I guess when they saw my name it surprised them.
“I’ve received so many messages from the diaspora. A lot of people have contacted me through Instagram or Snapchat, all social media.
“One of my London based aunts called me and cried because she always believed in me.”
The outing in Nigeria is the highlight of Namnganda’s career after years of struggles.
In 2017, he decided to quit football and delivered pizzas to Vigneux-sur-Seine where he grew up following a disappointing experience in Belgium with the Seraing under-21 team.
But one of his cousins insisted that he go on trial with SC Cholet, a third division team in France, where he spent a year and a half to get his career off the ground.
And, after his dramatic strike in Lagos, Namnganda must welcome advice to give the game another chance.