First Serie A goal caps remarkable journey of Gambian youngster Juwara
Gambian teenager Musa Juwara said he dedicated his first Serie A goal to "all who helped" him after an incredible journey to the top level of Italian football was capped in style when he scored for Bologna on Sunday.
The 18-year-old forward, who arrived in Italy after travelling unaccompanied across the Mediterranean as a child in 2016, came off the bench to equalise in Bologna's eventual 2-1 victory at third-placed Inter Milan.
"I dedicate this goal to my family and all those who have helped me along the way," Juwara, who was brought up by his grandfather after being orphaned, told Tuttomercatoweb.
He was adopted by an Italian couple, who helped him fight the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) for the right to play following his arrival in Europe.
"I thank the coach (Sinisa Mihajlovic) so much for giving me confidence against Inter, I'm very happy to have scored my first goal," Juwara added.
"It's a dream come true for me and I will remember this for the rest of my life."
Juwara's fellow Gambian and namesake Musa Barrow scored a dramatic late winner at San Siro, the sixth time he has netted in just 11 league appearances since joining Bologna from Atalanta on loan in January.
"I'm very happy for the other Musa, I gave him some advice and after the game I asked him for his shirt, because he was very good," said striker Barrow, who himself is only 21.
Juwara, who revealed he grew up supporting Chelsea and idolised Eden Hazard, is still yet to make his first league start for Bologna and the 25 minutes he played on Sunday is the most he has featured in a Serie A match.
But he has now made his mark, with his first goal all the more remarkable given he was embroiled in a legal battle with the FIGC in 2017 just to be allowed to sign for Chievo due to a rule preventing exploitation of child immigrants.
Juwara later joined Bologna for a reported fee of 500,000 euros ($566,000), but despite being expected to play for the under-19 side, has forced his way into the first-team squad.
Bologna host Sassuolo on Wednesday, when the ninth-placed side will be hoping Juwara can continue to defy the odds as they bid to launch a late challenge for Europa League qualification.
Mihajlovic's side sit five points off the last possible European spot currently held by seventh-placed AC Milan with eight matches of the season remaining.
Elsewhere in Serie A this week, leaders Juventus, who sit seven points clear of Lazio, visit Milan on Tuesday after Lazio take on relegation-threatened Lecce.
Serie A midweek fixtures (all times GMT)
Lecce v Lazio (1730), AC Milan v Juventus (1945)
Fiorentina v Cagliari, Genoa v Napoli (1730), Roma v Parma, Atalanta v Sampdoria, Bologna v Sassuolo, Torino v Brescia (1945)
SPAL v Udinese (1730), Hellas Verona v Inter Milan (1945)
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Miguel Medina