Maduka Okoye joining Watford is a groundbreaking moment for Nigerian football

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Watford have completed the signing of Nigerian goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye from Sparta Rotterdam for £7 million.

Watford unveiled Maduka Okoye and announced via their official Twitter handle that he will finish the season at Sparta Rotterdam on loan.

Maduka Okoye signed a five-and-a-half year deal which will officially begin on the first of January 2022.

The £7 million fee is the highest Dutch club, Sparta Rotterdam have ever received for a goalkeeper which is a new record.

But Maduka Okoye’s transfer is more noteworthy for the significance it has on Nigerian football and how groundbreaking it is.

NIGERIAN GOALKEEPERS IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

There have been a few successful Nigerian goalkeepers in mainstream Europe but even fewer in the English Premier League.

The only Nigerian goalkeeper that comes to mind when discussing the English Premier League is Carl Ikeme. And although he spent majority of his career with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Ikeme only made one Premier League appearance.

As far as Nigerian goalkeepers in the English Premier League go, this is uncharted territory for Maduka Okoye. There’s no precedent here, in the discussion of Nigerian goalkeepers in the EPL, Okoye may well be 1 of 1.

Of course, Maduka Okoye will be hoping Watford avoids relegation this season or he may have to wait for his Premier League debut.

MORE PRESSURE

The consequence of being the first is the pressure that comes with it, the pressure to succeed. Not to get political here but if Maduka Okoye goes on to have a successful Premier League career. It would make it easier for more clubs to trust Nigerian goalkeepers and vice versa.

Similar to how Edouard Mendy’s success at Chelsea has brought to light the disparity between opportunities for African goalkeepers and their counterparts from other continents.

Maduka Okoye is already comfortably the number one goalkeeper for club and country at 22 years old. This move to Watford is the next step in his career and could turn out to be a masterstroke.

Maduka was also named Sparta Rotterdam’s player of the season in his debut campaign which gives an inkling of his high potential.

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