Citys Zongo comes of age Published on: 14-02-2012

The boisterous Valletta fans chanted his name as Ousseni Zongo left the field in the dying stages of Sunday’s match against Birkirkara to be replaced by Alfred Effiong.

Zongo fully deserved the adulation of the City faithful as his lively performance was one of the reasons Valletta were three goals up and cruising.

Varying the angles of his runs, the Burkinabe winger had served early notice of his threat by scoring Valletta’s second goal from a central position after Roderick Briffa’s incursion from the right had opened up the Birkirkara defence on 15 minutes.

Further confirmation of Zongo’s big contribution to Valletta’s con-vincing success came after the final whistle with the announce-ment that he had been voted BOV player of the match.

Unlike most of the foreigners who flock to our Premier League, Zongo was no stranger to Maltese football when he joined Valletta last summer as he had had a two-year spell with Msida St Joseph between 2005 and 2007 before moving to Portugal where he played for Uniao Leiria, Gil Vi-cente, Arouca and CD Tondela.

Zongo, who had earned a reputation as a fast, agile winger during his stint with Msida, gave a frank answer when asked why he decided to return to Maltese football last summer.

“At that time, the offer from Valletta was the best I received from any club,” he said.

“Valletta are currently the best team in Malta and these factors persuaded me to return to the Maltese league.

“I had spent four years in Portu-gal and the experience was very good. The level of football there is very high and there are many strong players, especially from Brazil.

“The standard is different from Malta. But, the level at Valletta is high because there are so many quality players, including some who play for Malta.”

Zongo’s bright showings in the last two months have not only cemented his place in Valletta’s starting formation but also en-deared him to the Valletta fans.

This represents a remarkable turnaround in Zongo’s fortunes as the nimble winger’s initial strug-gles to live up to expectations at his new club sparked rumours of an early departure from the champions.

“Everyone needs time to settle in a new environment,” Zongo said of his early difficulties to find is best form.

“I knew I had to work hard in training to improve and with the support of everybody, I’ve been getting better and better.

“I was also lacking match practice. If I got more games at the beginning, I’d have been better but then only God knows what’s going to happen next.”

Zongo’s renaissance has been central to Valletta’s strong run as they are unbeaten in their last 15 matches.

Their 4-1 win against Birkirkara kept Valletta four points clear over Hibs at the top and, in the eyes of many, their polished performance vindicated their status as leading challengers for the title.

Although satisfied with Val-letta’s showing, Zongo urged caution.

“Every week we must fight and work hard to win,” he said.

“We have to prepare well for every game because all teams will be out to make it difficult for us.”

Last month, Zongo was joined by fellow countryman Madi Saidou Panandetigiuri at Valletta.

A versatile defender who was part of the Burkina Faso squad for the 2012 Africa Cup, Madi, as he is commonly known, impressed with an energetic display on the right flank in his first start for Valletta last Sunday.

Asked if he was surprised that a player of Madi’s calibre decided to continue his career in Malta, Zongo said: “Nowadays, there are a lot of good players in the world of football. Football is like a business and sometimes, even strong players encounter prob-lems at certain clubs.

“As for Madi, I’m obviously happy that he has joined Valletta and I’m confident that he will do well here.”

Now that he has reached his first aim of earning a regular place in the team, Zongo has set his sights on winning some silverware with Valletta.

“I’m looking forward to winning the league title and FA Trophy with Valletta,” Zongo said.

“It will not be easy but I believe that we can do it.”

On the back of his recent dis-plays, Zongo is likely to be offered an extension to the one-year contract he signed with Valletta last summer but the 27-year-old is no rush to decide his future.

“I’m just happy with how things are going for me at the moment,” Zongo said.

“It’s still early to discuss my future... we’ll have to wait and see what comes along.”

Source - Times of Malta