The boy is good. At 21, Noah Atubolu is the youngest goalkeeper in the Bundesliga. The Freiburg youngster has come under the radar of Nigeria’s Super Eagles in recent weeks after the blunders of Francis Uzoho during the friendly games against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique.
Nigeria needs a great goalkeeper once again after the era of Vincent Enyeama was unceremoniously ended by Sunday Oliseh’s brief stint as Super Eagles coach. We have been unlucky with the goalkeepers that have come through since, Carl Ikeme’s sad cancer diagnosis and eventual remission being one of the chapters that we have put behind us.
Nigeria’s current goalkeepers are afraid to make mistakes. Coach Jose Peseiro told me in Doha last December that Francis Uzoho did not want to get back into the second half after conceding two first half goals in the friendly against Portugal last year. Neither did Maduka Okoye who was on the bench. The lack of confidence in their own abilities was shocking to hear. The Super Eagles eventually lost that game 4-0.
🗣️ “Do it if it’s easy”
Jose Peseiro’s first choice goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho has responded to his critics after he came under fire due to an error in Nigeria’s win over Mozambique🚨#soccernet #supereagles #francisuzoho #nigeria
— Soccernet.ng (@soccernet_ng) October 17, 2023
The 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers begin this week with our matches against Lesotho and Zimbabwe. We also have the Africa Cup of Nations coming up in two months in Cote d’Ivoire. Can we trust our goalkeepers to deliver when the time comes?
I decided to go and watch the Bundesliga game between RB Leipzig and SC Freiburg on November 12 to get a full glimpse of Noah Atubolu. I had reached out to the club to arrange an interview with him, but I was told that Freiburg does not allow its young players speak to the media. This is to protect them. Atubolu has come under intense scrutiny since the season started when he was handed Freiburg’s no.1 shirt after the departure of Mark Flekken for Premier League side Brentford.
As the German media has questioned Atubolu’s ability to keep clean sheets (only three in their last 11 games, 17 conceded), Freiburg coach Christian Streich has put his weight behind the youngster. “Other goalkeepers also make mistakes,” Streich said about his decision to promote Atubolu from the third team to first. The game against Leipzig ended in a 3-1 defeat for Freiburg.
Despite the questions around Atubolu’s prowess, he continues to be the German U21s first choice goalkeeper. They see him as a long term prospect to take over from the likes of Manuel Neuer, Ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp and co.
Could Nigeria entice Atubolu to come play for the Super Eagles? He has been photographed with a Nigerian flag on his goalkeeper’s gloves which means he celebrates his Nigerian heritage. But is it a prospect that interests him to play in a Nigeria shirt? Time will tell. He is growing and will make up his mind. However, Nigeria cannot continue to chase talents that it has not groomed.