Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a darling of local fans here.
The local supporters cannot just have enough of him.
Neither can they see any wrong in his actions. Aubameyang is to Gabon what Tottenham Hotspur’s Victor Wanyama is to Kenya.
A measure of Africa’s most potent striker’s popularity for example, was evident during Gabon’s must win game against Cameroon on Sunday night.
Then, about half of the home supporters donned the national team jersey with either the player’s name or the number nine emblazoned at the back. A few others preferred to wear the Borussia Dortmund jersey of his German club.
From that moment his image popped up on the large screens at the Stade D’Limite during Gabon’s arrival for their match against Cameroon on Sunday to the pre-match warm-up at the venue and during the contest against the Indomitable Lions, the 28-year-old was the man to watch. His every touch of the ball was greeted with cheers.
Even the noisy Cameroon fans were silent whenever the lethal striker from Minvoul town in Northern Gabon but who was born, bred and trained as a footballer in France, touched the ball.
“He is our main man. He carries the team forward, with him there is hope we can do something,” a youthful lady wearing Gabon national team jersey explained.
Even the fact that he had an average game, even missing two clear-cut chances in the match didn’t dampen the spirits of his supporters. In contrast, the crowd jeered goalkeeper Didier Ovono and China-based forward Evouna Malick for supposedly playing below par.
Aubameyang though is untouchable. Even his explanation after the match to the effect that the Panthers had suffered an early exit from the tournament owing to poor preps was roundly accepted by the home faithful.
He said following the team’s third draw in successive games against Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Cameroon: “We were supposed to start (training) on January 3, but we started a little bit late. We didn’t really have time to prepare. I think we were stronger than every other team in the group, but it is about everything.”
Granted, the pacy striker – whose playing style has been likened to that of former French star Thierry Henry, will live to fight another day.
In this contest, so will Gabon.