Scouting Network – Emmanuel Mbola

Scouting Network identifies young players under the age of 21 who have exceptional talent and could be one of the leading players of the future. This month GoaldenTimes profiles Emmanuel Mbola

Frankly, only a few who venture outside European football would have heard this fellow’s name but at Goalden Times, we envisage to bring you the names before they become stars. Emmanuel Mbola is set to rule the left side of a top European club for a long time to come.

Born in Kabwe, which is an important transportation and mining centre in Zambia, Mbola began his career as a 14 year old for the Zambian club, Mining Rangers. At an age when the European prodigies would probably be only playing age-group football and at best the reserve leagues, Mbola would go on to make his national debut for Zambia at the tender age of 15. In that match, Zambia would hold Egypt away at Egypt to a 1-1 draw in a qualification match for World Cup 2010. Mbola would go on to play each of the group league matches in the qualification campaign and even though Zambia would miss out  qualifying from the group to Algeria and Egypt, Mbola’s marauding runs on the left and his assured tackling would be noticed.

He was snapped up by top Zambian club, Zanaco in 2008 and soon he was onto even bigger things when Armenian club, FC Pyunik came calling. He joined Pyunic in 2009, aged just 16, a fact that would become important later, and later that season became the first Zambian to play in the UEFA Champions League in 2009. Again his team was eliminated but he was noticed and scouts in England took note. A story of Tottenham having signed him emerged, but that turned out to be a media fiction. His stint with Pyunik saw him winning the double of Armenian Premier League and Armenian Cup in 2009. Meanwhile FIFA took action against Pyunik, saying Mbola was underage and could not have signed the professional contract. Mbola moved back to the reigning African Champions – TP Mazembe of Congo in 2010. With Mazembe, he would win his first African Champions Cup in 2010.

At just over 18 years old, Mbola is already a veteran of 23 first team appearances for the Zambian national team. That implies he has become the second youngest to appear in the African Cup of Nations in 2010. Hisgameplay is based on a robust physique and pace with or off the ball, which allows him to get those runs down the left. Unlike others though, he can defend and tackle but like all defenders, can only improve with age. The one area he does need to work upon is his distribution and passing but at 18, there is still time for a top European club to put their faith in him and see him develop.

His future is obviously in Europe and unlike the last time, he is over 18 and now eligible to sign a professional contract as per FIFA guidelines. A left back, who has won a domestic double in a European league, has been an African club champion, has put in 23 appearances for his nation and thus qualifies for a European work permit and is only 18 – the ingredients for an impending move to Europe, are all there. The coveted transfer though would have to be postponed at least till the next summer, as FIFA has banned Mbola from playing till February 2012, and one will have to wait a bit more to see him in full flight in Europe.