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‘Daniel Akpeyi has been unfairly criticised’

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Daniel Akpeyi

A Member of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Godspower Akpobome feels that the series of criticism being heaped on Super Eagles goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi are ‘unfair’.

Akpeyi has kept four matches for the Super Eagles in the on-going Egypt 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), which Nigeria won. He was in action in the first game against Burundi, and the team triumphed 1-0 in Alexandria with China-based Odion Ighalo accounting for the goal. Akpeyi also had a clean sheet in the second group match against the Syli Nationale of Guinea, which saw the Super Eagles picking the ticket to the round of 16 with a game in hand.

In the last group match against debutants, Madagascar, Akpeyi was rested for Ikechukwu Ezenwa, and Nigeria suffered a 0-2 defeat. The former Warri Wolves goalkeeper returned to action in the round of 16 match against the defending champions, Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, and Nigeria won 3-2 to hit the quarterfinal. He was called to duty in Wednesday’s quarterfinal cracker against the resilient Bafana Bafana of South Africa at the Cairo International Stadium, and the Super Eagles won 2-1 to hit the semifinal stage of the competition.

His good records in the 2019 AFCON notwithstanding, some Nigerian fans, journalists and critics still feel Akpeyi is not doing enough for the national team.

But Akpobome has a different view. “I think some Nigerians have been so unfair to Akpeyi in their criticism,” he told The Guardian during the match against Bafana Bafana in Cairo on Wednesday.

“I have taken my time to study Akpeyi, and discovered that he is not as bad as many people paint the situation. Look at that goal we just conceded. I won’t blame Akpeyi for it. A free kick was taken by the South Africans and that ball hit the back of Odion Ighalo and flew to another South African player. What were the defenders doing before Bongani Zungu directed his header to the far corner of our goal? Our players relaxed in the second half and the South Africans mounted a lot of pressure on our defence. In football, some of these things do happen within a split second. I am not blaming our defenders for not reacting quickly to that move by the South Africans, but people should stop criticising Akpeyi for every goal the team concedes.

“What will the South Africans do to their goalkeeper who conceded two goals? Or what will Cameroun do to their goalkeeper, Onana, who is rated No five best in the world? Onana conceded three goals against the Super Eagles in their round of 16 match, yet heaven did not fall. I think Nigerians should show some love to Akpeyi rather than call for his head anytime we concede a goal or lose a match. Standing by him will make his confidence level to grow. That is the practice all over the world,” Akpobome stated.

Before the kick off of Egypt 2019 AFCON, many Nigerians, particularly some journalists, who obviously did not want Akpeyi in the squad went to town painting him in black colours.

Akpobome says such acts by some Nigerian journalists was capable of inciting the public against the goalkeeper. “It is not good for the national team, and our country. The fact that you want your person to be the national team goalkeeper is not enough to haul over the coals on someone else. Whoever that wants to take over the number one jersey should work for it. For now, Akpeyi is our number one goalkeeper, and people should give him the support he needs to perform. If we win this trophy, all Nigerians will take the glory. There are some players on the pitch who are not measuring up to expectations, yet the critics won’t talk. I am saying this because I feel Akpeyi has been unfairly critised,” the Supporters Club member stated.

Akpeyi’s journey into the national team started at the U-20 World Cup in 2005 under Coach Samson Siasia. He, alongside goalkeeper Ambrose Vanzekin made the trip to The Netherlands, where Nigeria lost to Argentina 2-1 in the final.He was also part of Siasia’s squad to Beijing 2008 Olympics Games, which also got to the final and lost to Argentina. Those were his days in the junior team.

Akpeyi, who plies his soccer trade in South Africa, fought his way into the senior national team during the era of late Stephen Keshi. He was part of the Super Eagles team to the camp in Faro, Portugal in preparation for South Africa 2013 African Nations Cup. He was dropped on the eve of the tournament.

The Guardian recalls how Akpeyi’s mother felt after her son was dropped from the Super Eagles squad in the build up to South Africa 2013.  The mother, who resided in Ikorodu, Lagos then, had a chat with The Guardian, narrating how she fasted for days, crying to God to intervene in her son’s football career. Akpeyi’s mother could not wait to see her son’s football career flourish in the Super Eagles. She died some years ago.

In 2014, Akpeyi was invited yet again to the Super Eagles, where he had a superlative performance in the match against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. That opened the doors for his contract with Chippa United Football Club in the Rainbow nation. He joined Kaizer Chiefs, another South African football club earlier this year.

The 2-1 victory by the Super Eagles against the Bafana Bafana in Wednesday’s match in Cairo may have erased the memories of the 0-2 defeat, which Nigeria suffered in the hands of the South Africans in the first leg of the 2019 AFCON qualifier in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Akpeyi was in goal for the Super Eagles in 2017, when the South Africans won.

Though, the Super Eagles still have two more hurdles to cross in their bid to win the AFCON title, but for the likes of Akpobome and some other fans, Akpeyi will walk tall anytime he returns to his club, Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa for not allowing the Bafana Bafana to have their way in the battle of Cairo.


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