IKENWA NNABUOGOR is worried about the seeming lack of quality between the sticks for the Super Eagles…
The Super Eagles goalkeeping department appears to be the worst hit as the team are currently thrown into more confusion as who will be in charge between the sticks going forward.
New coach Jose Peseiro will certainly not be presented with a Vincent Enyeama-like goalkeeper to advance his Eagle’ duties as the hands he’s got now appear not to be the safest around.
Erstwhile first-choice ‘keeper Maduka Okoye, who should be celebrating his England move to Watford, is currently warming the bench at the relegated English side and failed with the Watford team in his first- ever appearance for his new side as the Hornets were roundly beaten in the Carabao Cup to compound his woes.
Okoye was thrown into Eagles wilderness since he was badly exposed by Tunisia’s Youssef Mskani’s wicked 47th minute goal as Eagles were agonizingly ousted by the North Africans in the ill-fated Cameroon 2021 African Nations Cup second round clash.
It’s been nine months since Okoye guarded the Eagles nets and was even reported to personally sit out the two crucial 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier play-offs against Ghana as rumours as fans attacking him for Eagles’ early showers at the last AFCON remained unconfirmed.
Peseiro’s association with the Eagles estranged Numero uno has only limited to seeing glimpses of him on the television as Francis Uzoho currently remains Peseiro’s and the country’s number one.
Uzoho, unfortunately, isn’t having it rosy at club level, but is marginally better than Okoye to grab the number one shirt as Eagles continue to slide into a crisis in that role.
Uzoho, for one, has played only five games thus far in 2022 for his club since Peseiro took over and has remained in post for the four games Eagles have played thus far under Peseiro to likely remain first choice.
The former Deportivo La Coruna upstart has played only one game in the new season for his Cypriot side Omonnia Nicosia in a 1-0 loss to Akritas on August 28 to heighten concerns about his competitiveness for Eagles duties.
Sitting on the bench thus far for the junior international has been previously uncapped Israel-based keeper Adebayo Adeleye, who has been in superb form for his side Hapoel Jerusalem.
Home-based duo of Enyimba’s John Noble and Adewale Adeyinka of Akwa Ibom make up the list in the department for the 62-year old Portuguese, who must step up the pace to convince the higher-ups to continue flying with the Eagles.
Adeleye is superbly flying with his Israeli club having helped them gain promotion to the Israeli top flight this past season, but is inexperienced in the international scene and may not be entrusted with the Eagles gloves as long as Uzoho is fit for selection.
Now there lies the impending crisis the department may face soon – Okoye is grossly inactive at Watford and has not played club league football since the final league game of the Dutch Eredivisie on May 15, 2022, when he helped beat Heracles 3-1; Uzoho hasn’t been convincing at Omonnia Nicosia and the rest of the list are just lacking international experience.
Should something happen to Uzoho now, who does Peseiro turn to and where does it leave our dear Super Eagles?
Okoye, full of international experience and lacking in club football could sadly be the only option and should match rustiness overcome him, Eagles will definitely be in serious trouble.
Adeleye could be another option, but it has to take some damning guts for Peseiro to gamble on him and what comes out of the gamble will be all for Peseiro to chew upon.
Interestingly, coaches’ gambling is part of the game, after all, Okoye was a huge gamble when Rohr even refused to listen to himself when he threw him into the deep end to replace injured Uzoho for his debut in the high-profile friendly against Brazil that ended in the 1-1 draw in Singapore on October 13, 2019.
The gamble not only worked as the 63rd minute substitute entrant not only kept a personal clean slate, but went on to become Eagles number one despite playing in the fourth-tier German football for Fortuna Dusseldorf ll.
This goalkeeping worries, in truth, should be national concern for all the stakeholders of the beautiful game and the earlier this is resolved, the better for all.
But what colour will the problem solving look like?
It’s looking bleak as it is as the general dearth of goalkeepers isn’t helping matters – sadly, goalkeepers are hardly among the teeming number of diasporan players with Nigerian blood gushing in their veins scattered all over Europe and Americas, leaving Peseiro with limited options.
Swiss-born Lugano keeper Sebastian Osigwe, who was targeted by former coach Gernot Rohr, isn’t finding life easy for his Swiss club at the momentand hasn’t been anywhere near the sticks for his Swiss club this season and as such should be considered as an abandoned project.
Gernot was projecting into the future and wanted Osigwe as a backup to Okoye and Uzoho, but Osigwe wasn’t ready for that as he was reported to have walked out on the team in one of the friendly games during Rohr’s era.
Osigwe may eventually not seen on the Eagles radar as his Lugano no- show will definitely provide no option going forward.
As it is, Peseiro must make do with Uzoho, Okoye and perhaps, Adeleye as he decides to hand the youngster, who has distinguished himself with a handful of clean sheets for his Israeli club, a well- deserved chance but he must up his ante to bring something extra to the table.
Peseiro returns to the dugout on September 27, when his men visit Algeria for a friendly for yet another feel by any of the three keepers between the sticks.
The former Venezuela coach will have another chance to look at his goalkeepers in another friendly against World Cup-bound Portugal in November.
Hopefully, these two opportunities will give him a better idea of the man he should pick between the sticks without harbouring so much doubts.