Maduka Okoye has seen his stock rise from a 4th tier league goalkeeper to the first choice of not just a club in the highest league in the Netherlands but also the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles.
After making his debut for Nigeria, as a second-half substitute in an international friendly against Brazil in Singapore, Maduka has gone on to become Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper, keeping the goal in Nigeria’s last four games. Two friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia respectively and two African nations cup qualifiers against Sierra Leone. The 21-year-old is enjoying the best moment of his burgeoning football career and is not keeping quiet about it.
In a recent interview with his club, Sparta Rotterdam’s media, made available to Omasports. He talks about his Nigerian national team journey as well as his rise to the first choice at the Dutch Eredivisie outfit.
“I’ve been with the Eagles for one and half years now but I was on the bench at the beginning, then I came in against Brazil. That was like the first step in this direction. Of course, it was not easy to get the number one spot there and it would be harder now to keep it because the boys are coming and I have to keep up with good performances both here at club side and also in Nigeria of course.” he said.
After a few matches for the national team, Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr said in an interview that he was looking for the first goalkeeper for quite some time and now he does not have to look anymore. He found that in Maduka and the Dusseldorf born goalkeeper is thankful. “He, Gernot Rohr gave me the trust in the beginning and now I have to pay him back with good performances and as I’ve said, I have to give him big thanks.”
Maduka has enjoyed great support from Nigerians on social media, Twitter to be exact, following his performances for club and country, something that makes him happy. “Yeah, Nigeria, they’re going crazy on social media, I mean this country has more than 200million people, so it’s very busy on social media. It’s quite funny but you have to perform every time, in the country and club side. Everything goes viral very fast because there are a lot of people over there.”
Maduka moved to the Netherlands from Fortuna Dusseldorf in search of regular playing time, but in the first few months, he could not get game time. The German-born shot-stopper describes it as a “normal” feeling. “It wasn’t really hard because it’s football and I know I came here to compete, it wasn’t sure that I’ll be the number one or anybody else. I know from the beginning I have to work hard and show myself in training, in practice and I think I did that well, that’s why after,r a few games I got my first chance and I think I took it with a good performance against ADO Den Haag in the first game,” he said.
Since keeping goal for Nigeria in the two international friendly games in Austria, Maduka has gone on to also become the first choice goaltender at his club. On how he feels to finally say he’s the club’s number one, he says: “It feels good, it feels great to get the trust from the coaches to play those games. I think with a full stadium it would be great, but unfortunately, it is not possible at the moment however, I can’t wait to see all these fans and play in front of them.”
Maduka got his chance in a cup game, he impressed and held down the spot afterwards. “It’s something that teams like to do, to put the backup goalie for the cup games and I was not like it’s sure that I’d play in the league game after, but I went into this game feeling like let me do my thing, do my best and give the coach reasons to think about it to let me play even in the league,” he said. “I was confident with that performance and I think it was a good timing when I came back from the international break, I had two good matches with Nigeria and I think it was a perfect timing.”
Maduka, who is improving his Dutch by taking two classes per week ended by stating his ambitions for the season.
“I want to hold on to my number one spot both at club and country, as well as, to perform and to get good res