Dear Maduka Okoye, improve and Nigerians will align
First of all, Maduka, it’s not that deep. Nigerians are known to be some of the most impatient fans of a game that is loved by some of the most impatient supporters.
Nigerians are passionate about football. Every Nigerian is a world class coach in the corner of his room. The margin for error is low and the window of safety for a Nigerian player is very narrow. It’s hardly open. Performance breeds the confidence and support of Nigerian fans, like every other fan in the world, and non-performance, especially when it’s consistent, breeds criticism. Sometimes these criticisms almost lean towards contempt. No, they don’t hate you. I’m not sure they love you as much too at the moment, but consistently good performances shut Nigerians up. It has always worked.
But let’s talk about you.
What’s happening? There is quality in there. But with every game, it feels and looks as though you are not the man to man the Nigerian goal. Every chance there is points towards you. You have the age, the prospect and it looks like you can muster the expected longevity. You can be a big Nigerian football star. You should see what everyone else does. Nigerians are not all you think. We are as supporting as critical.
There are the bad eggs. Many of them, to be candid. You’ll have vile receptions sometimes. They only see the bad from the players they don’t like and they undermine the good such people you do. But that’s where consistency comes in. Critics abound all the time in sports, but a good performance brings everyone on board. Sadly, your performances have not been good, and you know it. You need to play. Defending you at the moment isn’t the easiest thing to do, even for your staunchest fans. You need to help them too.
When you signed that Watford deal, many weren’t so sure. It was a move to a Premier League club at the time, and that will always be interesting to Nigerians. But time would soon reveal that it wasn’t the best move for you, for many reasons. That loan deal between January and June was important for your confidence. Sadly, I think you need even more.
It’s some months before January, and it’s not very certain you’ll play before then for Watford. The rustiness you risk is even greater considering you need a lot of action at the moment. Game time helps players build confidence. It’s obvious you lack that at the moment, Maduka. You need to play.
A loan move has to be the next move. Fighting for a place when the preference is clear will not be the best of ideas. And Nigerians will always be on your neck. You can’t always excuse yourself from the national team after every bad game. It happens to every goalkeeper in the world. The very best of them have had consistent howlers, but they bounce back. They shake it off. Shake this off. You have no choice.
Look at Calvin Bassey for motivation. He was smoked, dried and cooked by Nigerians after his unimpressive full debut against Ghana. It was a high stakes game. But Bassey is arguably Nigeria’s best defender at the moment and fans will revolt if he’s not invited. That’s the Nigerian football fan. Never one to loathe for long.
There’s no depth to the Nigerian football fan’s emotion. Football fandom is a business of passion and its volatility and loyalty are cosmopolitan. And they’re periodically motivated. They change with time. It’s the same everywhere in the world. Nigerians don’t hate you. But these performances are difficult to accept, and twice as hard to defend.
I promise it’s not the first of its kind. Nigerians have blamed every Super Eagles goalkeeper in the past. Ten years ago when Nigerians were on the neck of Vincent Enyeama, the man who gave him his first shot with the national team, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde said;
“I think it is wrong to put the blame solely on Enyeama. Football is a game played by 11 players and one player should never be blamed for an error that leads to an unsatisfactory result for a team.
“We should also ask ourselves, what were the other ten players doing before the ball got to the keeper? It is wrong to blame one player for the result in a team game like football,” he asked. That was September 2012.
Enyeama was pivotal to Nigeria’s AFCON win less than six months after that period. It was the Super Eagles’ first continental triumph in 19 years. And Enyeama is a Super Eagles legend today. Take a cue from that.
Nigerians will blame you when you fail to make them happy. When you fail to do the simple things correctly, and they know you can. You’re not in your best element, and that happens. But show desire, don’t hide!
Another sabbatical may be the end of a national team career that promises so much, if only you can stomach the blame and show some fire.
Nigerian football fans will align. Football is a thankless game, and achievements wither in a short time. In your case, there hasn’t been much achieved and you have to aim for great performances. If you don’t believe you can be loved, then you’ll never be loved but if you believe this is just a rough patch, you’ll bounce back, and in no time.
Seek playing time, don’t fret and be commanding, you stand the part, that area is yours. You should act the part too. Take it in and improve. There is time!