Ajia Emmanuel ran the length of the field towards the opponent's bench, holding up his jersey to reveal a vest with an inscription that was not easily readable from the stands and stood with the jersey masking his face, then put his right hand across his chest in a manner of salutation.
It was the Match Day 6 fixture, the first game of the Kano Double header between El-Kanemi Warriors and Lobi Stars. Ajia had just scored his side, El-Kanemi's second and last goal of the afternoon and afterwards explained what led to the emotional dash to reveal the inscription "my heart is still with Lobi Stars".
"I left Lobi Stars at the end of last season after many seasons at the Club and I needed to show respect even after scoring the goal that made them sad", Ajia explained, still trying to stabilize his breathing after the final whistle.
Asked if wearing the vest with the message indicated he knew would score in the fixture, Ajia, whose boyish looks belied his eight years sojourn in professional football that began with the defunct Jasper United in 2006, responded "as a forward, the reason I get picked for a game is to score and having been selected to play against my former team, I was prepared to do my job just as I also set out to let them know I appreciate the club".
Technical Director of Lobi Stars and former international, Dominic Iorfa said he didn't see the goal and was told about the lad's gesture. "It's okay, what did you expect Ajia to do, celebrate and mock us after spending seasons with us? I don't have a problem with him scoring, it is my players that were careless...he's always been a good boy and made his decision to leave Lobi".
Ajia would have scored two other goals earlier especially off combinations with center forward, Obioma Arinze. He made light work of the Lobi Stars left back, Ashu Kingsley, running in on him on the flanks, floating passes including the one that found Arinze for their opening goal.
On the reception for the team on their adopted home in Kano, Ajia was most complimentary in his assessment of their behavior towards El-Kanemi. "They have been showing us love and making us feel at home with the way they come out to cheer us but we hope the team will return to our home ground before we play Kano Pillars... You don't expect them to support us against their team".
Ajia has set himself a modest target of ten goals this season but adds, "it will also be nice if I hit 20 goals"