Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr, in preparation for Nigeria’s friendly against Ukraine, extended a maiden invitation to the 19-year-old foreign based goalkeeper, a decision which has raised dust among football lovers in the country.
Nigeria’s national football team is widely believed to be at the cusp of a golden era that is expected to be ushered in by the country’s current array of young talents who are reaching their peaks at about the same time.
Natural finishers. Goalscoring wingers. Box-to-box midfielders. Strong midfield enforcers. Ball-playing, no-nonsense defenders. Flying fullbacks. The country is blessed with at least two promising players in each of the positions outfield.
But in the goalkeeping department there remains a migraine that just won’t go away.
At different times the likes of Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi and Francis Uzoho had been presented as the solution to the problem but each time, each has failed to nail down the jersey as his.
With Akpeyi yet again not impressing at the last Africa Cup of Nations where the Super Eagles couldn’t make the final, it was clear that the team’s coaching staff needed to find a new pair of safe hands.
But is Maduka Okoye the answer to the goalkeeping question?
While the Fortuna Dusseldorf B goaltender deserves his chance as a Nigerian and a proud one for that matter, his inclusion however in Gernot Rohr’s list is not yet justified.
Meet Maduka Emilio okoye, Nigeria's New Goalkeeper. pic.twitter.com/bcucyTX9rL
— Ifeanyi Etoniru (@Waynetipsy) August 15, 2019
Nigerians have never had issues with foreign-based players strolling into the national team if they earned their spots. Fans have warmed up to and adored William Troost-Ekong, Carl Ikeme, Leon Balogun, Victor Moses and others since the day they received their first call up.
What is not acceptable is a young chap, playing backup in the German fourth division coming to claim the same jersey worn by the great Peter Rufai.
It belittles not just that jersey but also the rich history behind it.
This controversy would have been avoided if Gernot Rohr and his assistants had done a bit more work to look for other options for the team. Whatever happened to the German manager’s policy of only inviting players who turn out regularly for their top clubs?
No one has any issue with Maduka Okoye. His natural pathway would have been to proceed to the Flying Eagles where his development would have been closely monitored.
There has to be better goalkeepers in the Nigerian Professional Football League than a promising backup in Germany’s amateur leagues. If there are none, we’d better scrap the local leagues and turn our attentions to cricket.
Rohr’s distaste for Nigeria’s local league and its players is magnified by his decision to overlook Enyimba’s Theophilus Afelokhai and co who can do a decent job until Uzoho and Maduka come of age.
The inclusion of Maduka Okoye in the Super Eagles setup is a crude joke taking too far. It is hoped that he comes in and show everyone that he is the next Vincent Enyeama.
But if it is clear that he is not up to the required level needed to play international football, Gernot Rohr and his coaching team should be brave enough to swallow their pride and send the youngster to where his talents will be needed.