Latest reports from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) suggest that Maduka Okoye could lose his place in the Super Eagles after it emerged that he deliberately skipped playing the last six international games for the country.
The 22-year-old German-born goalkeeper did not turn up for the just-concluded international break as well as the ill-fated World Cup qualifiers against the Black Stars of Ghana which saw the Super Eagles miss out on the World Cup ticket.
It was revealed at the time that Okoye, who moved from Eredivisie club Sparta Rotterdam to English Championship side Watford, suffered a shoulder injury during the season. He powered through it to help Sparta Rotterdam survive relegation and wants to take the off-season to recuperate before joining up with Watford for the pre-season.
He also took some time off international duties because of the mental burden of being responsible for Nigeria's exit from the 2021 African Cup of Nations which was held in Cameroon last January. Nigerian football fans attacked him on social media and media criticism followed his poor positioning which led to the goal that knocked the Super Eagles out.
Okoye was said to have felt so much pressure and wanted to detoxify his system before taking up the role of Nigeria's number 1 again. However, it has now been revealed that the former Fortuna Dusseldorf goalkeeper was fit enough to play for the Super Eagles and missed those games on purpose.
NFF labels Okoye’s actions unprofessional; claims investigations ongoing
A source from the NFF said to local media: “We heard from some of the backroom staff that he is skipping these games deliberately. Not a nice thing to do as he can properly communicate that he wants to be left out.
“Let's see how it goes because if same thing happens during next international window, we will explore the option of barring him from the team.
“It is unprofessional to skip games with flimsy excuses and we have also heard what happened at the AFCON where he was said to be rude to some of his teammates and coaches. He needs to change his attitude else he will be shown the exit door. No player is bigger than the team.”
Uzoho picked as interim number 1
Meanwhile, Super Eagles' goalkeeper trainer Ike Shorunmu has officially picked Francis Uzoho as the team's first-choice goalkeeper in the wake of all the issues surrounding Okoye.
Uzoho kept goal for Nigeria against Ghana and made a similar error to the one Okoye made at the AFCON. He received flak for his decision-making as well and initially deferred his return to the team.
He turned his decision around and showed up eventually, and put in strong performances for the Super Eagles in the just-concluded international break.
Shorunmu has now stated that the Cyprus-based goalkeeper needs more encouragement but will remain as first choice, and could possibly remain so for longer following the newly revealed Maduka Okoye issue.
“Uzoho, from my observation, needs more encouragement and support. I have to change his training strategy to beef up his confidence,” he said to local media.
This article was most recently revised and updated 5 months ago