Lyon's Gift Orban on the ball

Gift Orban: An Eagle lands in Lyon

Gift Orban: An Eagle lands in Lyon

Publish on 03/20 at 21:00 - E. DEVIN


When Alexandre Lacazette was forced off at halftime of Lyon's match on Friday, things looked dark for Les Gones, but in their captain's absence, they have a capable deputy in Nigerian Gift Orban. He recently spoke to l'Équipe to tell more of his story and his hopes for the future.

Born in Nigeria, Gift Orban's career didn't see him arrive in Europe until 2022, when he was picked up by Norwegian club Stabæk. His impact there was immediate, as he finished top scorer in the Norwegian top flight whilst also taking home the Young Player of the Year award. He soon joined Belgian side KAA Gent, where he continued to impress, netting fifteen times in sixteen league appearances. Having joined Lyon in January, he has found playing time hard to come by, but given the form of Lacazette, he feels that pressure is somewhat lifted.

Can you speak of your childhood, because it explains who you are today...
I cannot explain to you because you cannot understand, you were born in Europe, it is not like being born in Africa. If you're poor in France, the state can help you, associations can take care of you. In Africa, no one will give you anything and you will starve to death. That's why we all want to play football.

Did you do that?
Where I grew up (in the state of Benue, one of the poorest in the country, located in the southeast, near Cameroon), if you are in a family that has no means, life is impossible. That's what makes me determined, I never want to relive that. Things had to be found to eat every day. Now I want to succeed in my life to help. Not just my family, that's already the case and it's obvious, but I want to help all the poor, the orphans, who have the life I've had, even worse. Do you understand the word "poor"?


Well, there is poor in Europe and poor in Africa. You can't even compare, it's never going to be the same. You must have experienced it like I have (to understand). You sleep in places... It's too hard. Then you get up in the morning and you can't find anything to eat. Don't try to ask me more.

"My scoring goals has saved me"

So let's talk about football. Were you a striker already then?
Yes, when I was a kid, my only problem was making sure I found the goal. That's all I care about. Even when the ball was in my half, I could shoot if I saw the keeper off his line. I wanted it to come in, straight. If I were told to pass ten passes before I went to score, I preferred to go straight ahead. The most important thing was to put the ball in purpose. So I have this thing in my blood, because my scoring goals has saved me, they changed my life. I scored goals because I wanted to get by. And I was able to leave Africa because of that.

How was your adaptation to European football?
When I arrived in Norway (on trial) it was immediately challenging for me. I even went back to Nigeria at some point... Then they gave me a three-month contract. It was my chance, the coach made me play, I scored a double. The next game, another double, and I was off and running. A Portuguese coach there, called Hugo, spoke to me a lot to make me understand football, to adapt to tactical systems. I really had to organize my way of playing.

Have you had any difficulty in doing so?

Starting to play professionally, I realized that I'm going to have ups and downs, that you can't win all the time, that not every day is a breeze. Adaptation has been difficult, but it was necessary to move forward. Today, for example, I have a hard time playing up front alone because before I played in a front two, it suits me better. But I have to take responsibility, work and make progress.

"I'm going to do everything I can to help the team"

Does it disappoint you not yet to be a starter at OL?

When I got here, I knew I should be patient. Even though I'm not really a patient attacker. (Laughs) I want to play. But as I realized that I had to be patient and my time was coming. So even if I'm given ten or fifteen minutes, I'm going to do everything I can to help the team.

You told Lacazette that you wanted to take his place...

(Laughter) We were teasing each other, he knows this. We laugh a lot and there is respect between us. When I went into the locker room and saw a legend like Alexandre Lacazette, who plays in my position... He's a great legend that can show me a lot of things to help me evolve in my career and in my life. I'm happy because he has welcomed me very well, like everyone else here.

Are you working on your sense of character?

It's going to be said that I'm trying to control it. When you have a fiery and determined character, you have to know how to manage it, because after that people will talk... So I'm trying to channel my energy, that's important. You also have to behave well, wherever you go, and you have to adapt when you go somewhere. Let me give you an example: I love Burna Boy, good Nigerian music... When I arrived here in Lyon, there was French music in the locker room, stuff with "wesh". I don't like it at all, but for the group, I accept that they put that on. And my music, I listen to it at home. The most important thing is the club first, and my teammates before me.

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