Peter Utaka, 37, has led Kyoto Sanga to the J-League in Japan with a game left, a feat he missed by the whiskers last season while in the colours of Ventforet Kofu.
Kyoto Sanga had been in the J1 wilderness for 11 years and it was mainly Utaka’s goals that fired them back to the top flight to grab a king’s treatment as he wrapped his second season at Kyoto in grand style.
He would make up for that by firing 22 goals to emerge the top scorer and entered the J League Hall of Fame by becoming the fourth player ever to emerge top scorer in both J1 and J2 and the first African to achieve that feat.
Urawa Reds kept up the chase for the league diadem from start to finish as Utaka and Kyoto Sanga kept alive their two-horse race but a couple of defeats would ultimately put Reds’ noses in front for the title with a game left.
But Utaka’s business with Reds hasn’t finished yet, he’s a goal shy of their Brazilian striker Lukian in the race for the goledor prize.
Utaka’s 21 goals are in direct race for Lukian’s 22 and the former OB Odense marksman may not be on long walk to top scoring for the sixth time in his career.
He began his goledor routine in Belgium when his 22 goals fetched him the scorer’s top prize while a play-off place finish was the best his side Royal Antwerp could do.
Denmark hosted his top prize ceremony, while China followed via the FA Cup and Japan could be putting their garlands for the record third time round his neck in the grande finale next weekend.
Interestingly again, Utaka’s goal trail is following the same tracks, hitting all but one of his targets against the run of play, with 14 of those coming in the first half and just one from the spot.
This sweet goal sequence started in Denmark when he rose from the ashes of Senegalese striker Djiby Fall, to hit all his 18 strikes in open play and none from the spot.
Utaka is staring history on the face for his sixth Japanese side since he arrived at Shimizu Pulse in 2015 and perhaps, he could be contesting election for Mayor of Kyoto should he put Lukian in the shade for the top goals prize.
Both top contenders will have to finish this interesting race before their fans as “Manpo” holds the four aces as Kyoto Sanga entertain Ishikawa FC Kanazawa and he will have to put two goals past their visitors and hope Lukian fires blanks when AFC Blaublitz Akita come visiting, to win the interesting race.
Utaka is no stranger to goals and records and Lukian may not stand in his way.
Peter Utaka’s nautical miles on the ship cruise from Europe’s Denmark to the East is still yet to be determined as the former Royal Antwerp star is still on cruise control.
Cruising out of the East will take some time for “Manpo” as he is still painting his Japanese adventure red with goals, assists, team play and uncommon celebrations to attract to himself the superstar status he’s currently enjoying in Japan.
He may be 37, going on 38, two days shy of Valentine’s Day in 2022, but this Enugu-born goals machine is still oiling his engine to continue firing the goals.
The lure of playing in mainstream Europe after emerging top scorer in Denmark didn’t leave much fascination for him and he headed East, first to China, and later to Japan, where his ship is still cruising in the Japanese deep waters.
“Manpo” got nothing to prove again in Japan in terms of his job he’s paid to do, his consistency and deadly sharpness in front of goal has increased him his number of admirers.
By Ikenwa Nnabuogor