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My journey through African football has made me stronger — Akpeyi

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Akpeyi

Super Eagles goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi says his journey through the continent of Africa, providing cover for clubs in both the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup has made him a stronger and better player.

Akpeyi returned to the Super Eagles for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches against the Squirrels of Benin Republic, which the team won 2-1 in Uyo, and the Crocodiles of Lesotho, which Nigeria also won 4-2 in Maseru.

Before then, the Kaizer Chiefs goaltender had been sidelined since the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in July, where the Super Eagles lost 1-2 to Algeria in the semifinal.

He told The Guardian shortly after leading Nigeria to victory against the boastful Crocodiles in the battle of Maseru that his journey round some top clubs in Nigeria and South African leagues had made him a stronger and better player.

In 2015, Akpeyi became the fourth Super Eagles goaltender to ply his trade in South Africa, joining Willy Okpara, Peterside Idah and Gregg Etafia in the process. He left Warri Wolves in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) to pitch his tent with Chippa United in the South African ABSA Premier League.

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Akpeyi began his football career with the U-19 team of Gabros International FC and was promoted to the first team in 2005. He moved to Nasarawa United in January 2007.

Akpeyi left Nasarawa for Heartland FC of Owerri in 2009 in preparation for their 2010 CAF Champions League campaign.

At Heartland FC, Akpeyi’s football career blossomed, as he played in the lucrative CAF Champions League up to the final, where the Owerri-based club lost to TP Mozambe.

The disappointment of losing the CAF Champions League title notwithstanding, Akpeyi led Heartland FC to win the FA Cup title back to back.

He left Heartland FC for Warri Wolves in 2014, and for two seasons, he led the Seasiders to the final in the NPFL Super Four competition. Akpey also led Warri Wolves in the CAF Champions League, where they crashed out in semifinal.

Looking back on the beginning of his journey from the NPFL in Nigeria to the ABSA league in South Africa, Akpeyi recalled in a chat with The Guardian saying: “It was a long journey, and I thank God for the successes I have made so far. I was first invited to Supersport United in 2011 after a CAF Champions League game in Johannesburg, but the deal didn’t work out,” he said.

Akpeyi was a member of the Nigeria U-20 team to the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in Netherlands, and was also in the 22-man squad at Beijing 2008 Olympics Games.

He was also included in Super Eagles’ 23-man squad for the 2013 African Nations Cup as a backup to Chigozie Agbim, but was dropped on the eve of the team’s departure to the tournament in South Africa.

Akpeyi was named in the 30-man provisional squad ahead of Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, but was again left out.

He made his first full cap in 2015, in a friendly match against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa as a replacement for an injured Vincent Enyeama. He saved a penalty and was lauded for his strong goalkeeping, which gave him the Man of the Match award.

Akpeyi recalled with a feeling of nostalgia: “After my first derby in the friendly against Bafana Bafana in 2015, Chippa United then invited me to South Africa, and I signed a contract with them. That marked the beginning of my career in the South African League.”

He terminated his four-year relationship with Chippa United and joined Kaizer Chiefs in February this year. He made his debut for Kaizer Chiefs in the South African ABSA Premier League against rivals Orlando Pirates a week later (February 9).

Akpeyi was voted Man of the Match in Kaizer Chiefs’ 1-0 win against Baroka FC in their ABSA Premiership clash at the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg. He replaced injured Bafana Bafana of South Africa goalie, Itumeleng Khune on 26 minutes of the encounter.

And on November 9, Akpeyi produced another superlative performance in a dramatic 3-2 win for Kaizer Chiefs over city rivals, Orlando Pirates at the same FNB Stadium. The victory saw Kaizer Chiefs extend their lead at the top of the PSL table. The win against Orlando Pirates saw Akpeyi picked up two Soweto Derby wins in seven days.

The November 9 derby was a five-goal thriller that served up all the intrigues including an own-goal, penalty and a late winner.

At the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, Akpeyi kept clean sheets in Super Eagles’ first two matches. He was rested in the final group match against Madagascar, in which Nigeria lost 2–0. Akpeyi returned in the round of 16 match against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, which the Super Eagles won 3-2. He was also in goal for Nigeria in the quarterfinal victory over the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. He was on duty in the team’s 1-2 defeat to Algeria in the semifinal.

For Akpeyi, Super Eagles’ six points in two matches against Benin Republic and Lesotho in the race to the 2021 African Nations Cup is a sign of good things to come for Nigeria.

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Daniel AkpeyiSuper Eagles
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