Super Eagles number one net minder was in action for his club this weekend as they went down to PSV 2:1. This season, the 22 year old has made a bumper 19 outings in the Dutch league where he has been installed as the undisputed number one for his club Sparta Rotterdam. As the only Nigerian goalkeeper anywhere in the books of a club in a mainstream European league and also playing regularly, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to relegate Maduka Okoye to the Super Eagles bench. In these 2 seemingly simple but yet hard-to-attain tests, All other Nigerian goalkeepers fall glaringly short. Let’s take them one by one: Akpeyi: isn’t registered to play in a prestigious league and, as if that is not bad enough, he doesn’t even play regularly where he is (0/2). Uzoho: same. His club is in a mundane league and, to add insult to injuries, he doesn’t play regularly (0/2). Noble: playing in the NPFL makes him an instant turn-off to many and, as if his situation is not hopeless enough, he is not first choice in his club. (0/2). You have others like Osigwe who is registered in a decent league but doesn’t play regularly (1/2). Matthew Yakubu scores 0/2 as his league is underwhelming and his number of games stats is appalling. Adeleye is seeing game-time in Israel but the calibre of his league doesn’t hold up to Okoye’s – so it’s 1/2 for Adeleye. Moreover Osigwe, Yakubu and Adeleye all suffer from an inescapable handicap: lack of exposure in international football which gives Okoye an added advantage over any of them. However, for me, Okoye falls short in 2 major tests I subject international goalkeepers to when it comes to their ‘propensity for errors’. These are 1) likelihood and 2) probability. Likelihood: on a scale if low, medium and high, I will put Okoye’s likelihood for gaffs as between medium to high. Probability: as a ratio, I will guess that perhaps Okoye has a probability of 1 in 3 games of committing a catastrophic mistake that will prove costly.
Obviously, the two measurement above are very subjective and should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, they are based largely on my observations of Okoye’s output and demeanour with Nigeria which has led me to conclude that the German-Nigerian is not ready for the demands of international football and he might yet prove to be the most unreliable first choice goalkeeper available to Nigeria in a long time. As I have said countless times, goalkeepers are like wine that gets better with time, hence my view of Okoye is strictly time-specific. Right now, it is difficult to see how the Eguavoen led Management will drop the only high profile goalkeeper we have anywhere in the world who has the added advantage of playing regularly in club football with an ever increasing level of exposure in international football. But big decisions have to be made, otherwise Eguavoen will discover the hard way that playing in the best league doesn’t make a goalkeeper the only viable option open to a big nation like Nigeria.
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