Salomon Rondon had been sold, Ruud Van Nistelrooy had retired and Julio Baptista was still out injured with no fixed date of when he would return. Manuel Pellegrini has seen the squad that he worked so hard for taken apart and there was nothing he could do about it. With the club still in talks to sign ex-Real Madrid and Barcelona striker Javier Saviola, the Coach from Chile had no option but to call up young Fabrice Olinga for Malaga’s tie away to Celta Vigo to make up the numbers.
Fabrice Olinga was born in Duala, Cameroon and is the youngest from a family of nine. It was there that he learned football and was lucky to get picked up by the Samuel Eto’o Foundation. Former Barca man Eto’o set up the foundation back in 2006 to help disadvantaged kids and he has won numerous awards for its work. Olinga, who prefers to be known by his Christian name, Fabrice, came over to Spain to play in a round of exhibition matches that the Foundation had organised in Leon. It was here that he was spotted was signed by Mallorca. It was hard for the youngster to leave his family but with the support of his two mothers and father he made the big switch.
He stayed with the side from the Balearic Islands for three years but when the club offered him a new contract he had doubts. He didn’t believe he would get a proper chance and when Malaga made their interest clear to him through a contact of his father, he met with club officials and signed for the Andalusian club. He joined their Cantera before being sent out the Third Division side Atletico Malagueno. He was due to be sent out again this season but after seeing him in pre-season training, Pellegrini decided to keep him around.
Throughout pre-season the young forward impressed and with Malaga lacking players he was called up to the squad for the trip to Galicia. While some were surprised, Pellegrini was keen to stress the youngster’s talents and also that he was important not for the future but right now.
“I don’t believe there is a limit with age. He has a brilliant future, he has been with us for the whole pre-season and in these moments he could be important and for that he has been called up,” said the former Real Madrid Coach in his pre-game Press conference. How right his words proved to be.
As the game kicked off so too did La Liga, but with some notable differences. Celta had returned after a five-year absence and the hype and optimism that surrounded Malaga last season was now replaced with confusion and anger. As a scrappy game was played out with both sides trying to find space, Pellegrini brought on Fabrice in the second half. The 16-year-old become the fifth youngest player in La Liga’s history and the youngest ever to appear for Malaga in La Liga and the occasion initially looked too much for him.
Whilst showing spirit, Fabrice looked out of his depth and the forward missed the perfect opportunity to put Malaga ahead. But, just when it looked like the game was heading for a scoreless draw and the youngster’s selection could be criticised, Fabrice made a run into the box and unleashed a long shot at goal. It ricocheted off the post but was quickly recouped and whipped back into the area by teammate Diego Buonanotte after some clever footwork. Fabrice found himself on the end of the cross to knock it over the line with his body and from being completely lost in the moment, the teenager became the man of the moment – it had become a fairytale story.
The goal saw him become the youngest ever scorer in La Liga at the age of 16 years and 98 days. Athletic Bilbao’s Iker Muniain who was 16 years and 289 days old when he scored his first La Liga goal had held the previous record.
Malaga will be most happy with the three points, particularly as it was a cruel result for Celta who had hit the post twice, once in injury time in the second half. However, their fans can forget the summer of struggle for another reason, to toast a new star, if only for a while.