Ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and the Central Africa Republic in Lagos on Thursday, Super Eagles’ goalkeeper Maduka Okoye has disclosed that he has not earned the first-choice goalkeeper role yet.
In an interview with BBC, the German-born goalkeeper feels he still has a lot to learn before he can claim the number one role between the sticks.
He said, “I’ve experienced for myself that playing for a club and then for your country is a whole other thing. I don’t see myself as the Nigeria’s number one yet, I have to work on a lot of things before I will be the undisputed number one.”
Okoye made his debut for Nigeria in October 2019 in a friendly match against Brazil despite having not played at the senior level.
He said, “Francis Uzoho got injured so I had to do a quick warm-up together with the other reserve keeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa. It was either him or me.
“I had to go for it, but I was nervous at first, and there were a lot of things going through my mind. However, as soon as I set foot on the field, it was like any other match.”
The 22-year-old disclosed that there were critics who have doubted his talent and abilities since making his Super eagles debut, however, there are now fewer doubters.
He said, “In the beginning, they (the critics) doubted me a lot. When I played in the German lower leagues, they found it impossible to believe I had talent. Now there are fewer doubters; the higher you play at club level, the more they will respect you.”
Nigeria lead Group C in the Africa qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup with six points and look to increase their tally at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Thursday.
“These tournaments are going to be a huge platform for players like me. My ultimate goal is to hopefully play in the Premier League. The most important thing for me now is that I can play my games as a number one and develop myself as a keeper, and that is something I can do in the Eredivisie at Sparta Rotterdam,” Okoye added.