Lines fell into places for Francis Uzoho on Thursday on what he has described as dream come true. And the world saw him shine in one of the world’s most iconic stadiums.
For a man who comes from where Uzoho emerged from, these nights are not a staple. It’s not sold in the next store and the closest to them may be in video games. But shots after shots, parries after dives, the Nigerian international showed why the night was so precious to him.
A passionate Manchester United supporter, tweets backing his love for the club have since surfaced and they highlighted why the night was what it was for him. Unsure of getting a starting berth, he vowed to give his all on the night if given an opportunity and what a performance he had. Promise kept.
In 2018, fortune shone on Uzoho after he became Nigeria’s number one courtesy of a shaky performance by Daniel Akpeyi against Argentina. Aged 19 at the time, he went on to represent the Super Eagles at the World Cup as the first choice goalkeeper.
Prior to that period, Uzoho’s stock had risen in Nigeria and Spain when he became the youngest ever foreign goalkeeper to play in the La Liga aged 18 years and 352 days in 2017. He had made his debut for Deportivo La Coruna against Eibar exactly five years ago.
The World Cup didn’t get to become the stage Uzoho thought it would be as his stock fell afterwards and he was kicked out of the Deportivo first team.
His Cypriot adventures have taken him to Anorthosis Famagusta, APOEL Nicosia and Omonioa Nicosia – not great names from a Nigerian perspective but such is the trend of goalkeepers in the country that one can’t wish so much at a time.
The Europa League is not the biggest cup competition in Europe but for clashes against Manchester United, it’s a big night for a Nigerian facing his boyhood club.
Since Vincent Enyeama appeared in the UEFA Champions League for Hapoel Tel Aviv and Lille, there hasn’t been anything near a Nigerian goalie at the tournament but seeing Uzoho on a good level against a top opposition sparks hope about what may be in stock.
While he’s currently unpopular amongst Nigerian fans for his hand in Nigeria’s miss of the 2022 World Cup, Uzoho may have warmed himself into hearts with that excellent performance against Manchester United.
That night in Manchester had been built on many aches and disappointments in the past but it is one he won’t forget in a long time.