Travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic initially placed on international players by clubs in France and Spain has forced a few Nigerian stars to miss next week’s Afcon qualifying games, and that benefitted one of the domestic league’s most enterprising attacker
Enyimba’s tricky winger Anayo Iwuala has expressed his delight at earning his maiden Super Eagles invitation, saying it’s an excellent opportunity to show everyone his qualities.
Iwuala, despite his heroics for Enyimba in the Nigeria Professional Football League and on the continent, did not make head coach Gernot Rohr’s initial 24-man squad that was named to face the Republic of Benin and Lesotho for the qualifiers.
Instead, it was teammate, goalkeeper John Noble – also earning his first national call-up – that was the only home-based player on the roster.
But that was before Spanish Segunda Division side Almeria decided to dash Umar Sadiq’s hopes of making his debut for the Super Eagles by blocking the young striker from travelling to Nigeria.
Sadiq’s withdrawal then opened a space to be filled on the team sheet, and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) announced that Iwuala is the replacement for the former AS Roma man.
Iwuala joined Enyimba last season from Delta Force FC, but injuries and poor form didn’t let him blossom until this term.
However, this season has brought out the best of the pacey winger with two goals and eight assists for the Aba Elephants.
And a maiden Super Eagles call-up, he says, is the ‘perfect’ reward for his performance thus far.
“I got the news from my club chairman, he called to congratulate me, and he said I have been called up to the national team,” Iwuala told Enyimba’s official website.
“It is perfect. I call it a double celebration. It is a great news and a great opportunity as well.”
Aside from Iwuala, Galatasaray’s Henry Onyekuru has been invited to replace the injured Samuel Kalu, while Genk’s Paul Onuachu has been drafted in place of Nantes’ Moses Simon.