Boya bonanza for Partizan
Wednesday, 1 December 2004
By Michael Harrold
The path from Yaoundé to Belgrade via Tripoli is not a well trodden one, but for Pierre Boya it is one that is fast leading to success.
FK Partizan will testify to that, after the 20-year-old Cameroonian striker's goals in their 2-2 draw against S.S. Lazio last week put the Belgrade side on the verge of a place in the UEFA Cup's last 32. It was an eye-catching performance, one in which the young striker made the experience of Lazio centre-backs Paolo Negro and Fernando Couto count for little as he plundered two goals in the first 24 minutes. "It was super, incredible," Boya told uefa.com. "This is my first time in the UEFA Cup and to score twice in Rome is really special. We have a really young team, but we want to go far."
Partizan have every chance of doing just that. Boya also scored in the 3-1 win over FC Dinamo Bucuresti that sealed his side's passage to the group stage, and his goals in Rome have ensured that a victory against Villarreal CF on Thursday will see Partizan through from Group E. Though the Spanish side may start as favourites, confidence is running high in Belgrade. "They like to keep the ball and if you can do that, you've got the advantage," Boya said. "But we'll play as we always do. We have the chance to qualify and we'll be going for it."
Not that Boya is letting success go to his head. The striker knows how hard it is to come by after a broken leg in 2001 ended his hopes of joining Swiss side Neuchâtel Xamax FC, who he had impressed on trial. The road to recovery was an unusual one for the Yaoundé-born youngster, who put his European ambitions on hold to play for FC Salam Zgharta.
By his own admission, northern Lebanon was no footballing hotbed, but the experience got Boya back on his feet and he was ready when Partizan came calling in September 2003. "It was so cold," Boya says with a laugh as he remembers watching Partizan draw at home to Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League shortly after agreeing terms on a four-year contract. One year on he is spearheading Partizan's challenge to return to the competition.
Partizan top the Serbo-Montenegrin first division, and Boya's excellent form in an exciting young side led to his first call up to the full Cameroon squad a fortnight ago. Boya did not feature in the defeat by Germany, but the chance to train alongside FC Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o made the trip worthwhile. "I have a lot to learn and he is someone who can really help me," Boya said.
For the moment, though, Boya is handling himself just fine. His confident, hard-working team ethic is reaping rewards, and not even racist chanting at the Olimpico stadium last week could knock him off his stride. "I had already done my mental preparation before the match so I don't listen, I just play football," he said. "It's an added motivation to make me play even better."
Partizan will become the first Serbo-Montenegrin club to progress in Europe beyond the winter break since 1992 if they beat Villarreal. Victory would also add to Partizan's burgeoning reputation in Cameroon. Boya admits rivals FK Crvena Zvezda were the more famous of the Belgrade clubs in his homeland before his arrival, but a few goals have changed all that. "Now they know who Partizan are," he said.