• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Nwabali says unfazed by Okoye’s return to Super Eagles

Nwabali-Okoye

Super Eagles goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali said he remains unfazed by the return of Maduka Okoye to the national team, stating that it won’t distract him from his current form.

Nwabali has experienced a significant rise in his career over the past six months. Former Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro included him in the squad for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations due to Francis Uzoho’s repeated errors that cost the team on multiple occasions.

The 27-year-old, who plays in the South African league, delivered standout performances at the 2023 AFCON, helping Nigeria secure a silver medal after losing the final to the host nation Ivory Coast.

His recent performances earned him a call-up to Finidi George’s squad for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin in June.

Okoye’s call-up has created uncertainty about Nwabali’s role as the starting goalkeeper. Okoye, who used to be the first-choice keeper, lost his form but has now seemingly regained it, potentially tempting coach Finidi to start him.

However, the Port-Harcourt-born goalkeeper is not worried about losing his number one spot and is focused on the team’s success.

“There’s no debate. If Maduka can give what he’s giving Udinese to the country, then he should play,” Nwabali told Lagos Talks.

“It’s not like a club side, where you see a new signing and you talk about fighting. No. This is our country we are playing for, we are representing the green, white, and green, and we want to see everyone happy.”

The former Enyimba goalkeeper had an impressive 2023/24 season in the South African Premier Division, keeping 12 clean sheets and conceding 27 goals in 29 matches for the Gqebera-based team.

Nwabali’s rise to prominence accelerated in January when he played a pivotal role in helping Nigeria reach the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, where he kept four clean sheets in seven appearances and made two crucial penalty saves in the quarterfinals against South Africa.

Nwabali joined Chippa United from Katsina United in 2022 and has played at every tier of local football in Nigeria, from non-league to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). He quickly rose to prominence after joining the Chilli Boys in the 2022/23 season.

His stellar performances have attracted interest from clubs abroad, including Saudi Pro League’s Al Ettifaq, English Championship side QPR, and South African giants Kaizer Chiefs.