Maduka Okoye made his international debut for Super Eagles in a friendly encounter against Brazil in November 2019, but his invitation drew a lot of criticism.
This was because he was playing in the German fourth tier with Fortuna Dusseldorf. His critics argued that his spot should’ve gone to a home-based player or someone in a more respectable league.
Okoye was handed a call-up due to a lack of a suitable number one since Vincent Enyeama was forced to retire from the team.
Still, his critics felt his call-up was underserving. In fairness, they were right as not only was Okoye was playing in a fourth-tier league, his performance was also below average.
The 21-year-old was in a battle to convince his critics that he belonged in the team. The Super Eagles played just four games in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Okoye was in goal for all the games.
However, he was still unable to convince his critics, especially after he conceded four goals in Nigeria’s disastrous 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier last November.
But almost a year later, Okoye is now silencing his critics. Firstly, the 21-year-old left Fortuna to sign for Dutch Eredivisie club, Sparta Rotterdam.
He had a difficult start in the early stages of the season as he sat on the bench for the first few games of the season.
However, as the season progressed, Okoye got his chance, and he never looked back. He was brilliant for Sparta as they finished eighth in the Dutch top-flight.
He kept ten clean sheets in 28 league appearances, averaging 2.6 saves per game. Okoye’s performance earned him a spot in the Eredivisie team of the season and Sparta’s player of the year.
It’s important to note that he delivered this brilliant display in just his first season in the top-flight. He was linked with a move to Ajax, AZ Alkmaar and Anderlecht this summer, but he has now signed a new four-year deal at Sparta.
With age on his side, he can only get better. He still needs to improve on a lot of things, but his performance over the last year has finally silenced his critics.