A year ago, I didn’t think I’d be here’ – Nigeria shot stopper Stanley Nwabili

A year ago, I didn’t think I’d be here’ – Nigeria shot stopper Stanley Nwabili

When Nigeria national team coach Jose Peseiro landed in South Africa last month to get a closer look at goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili playing for Premier Soccer League side Chippa United, something was cooking.

There had been loud concerns The Super Eagles could be limited in their options between the sticks ahead of the AFCON with Peseiro initially naming six shot stoppers in his 50-man preliminary squad. 

Nwabili was the surprise pick.

It was in fact Francis Uzoho who was considered the first choice going into the continental competition in Cote d’Ivoire – he started the five successive matches, including the two 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe recently, before he was dropped for the friendly with Guinea on the eve of the tournament. 

Peseiro let the cat out the bag then by handing Nwabili his Super Eagles debut as they prepared for their opener against Equatorial Guinea. 

“A year ago, I didn’t think I would be here,” the towering goalie told journalists after he kept a second clean sheet in three Group A matches to help Nigeria qualify for the round of 16 where they will now face Cameroon. 

The 27-year-old joined Chippa last season from Katsina United in his native country’s topflight division and wasn’t immediately the first choice in the DStv Premiership, having to play second fiddle to Lloyd Kazapua, who is also at the AFCON as the No.1 keeper for Namibia.

But since the start of the 2023/24 campaign, Nwabili has taken over, which explains why Peseiro felt the need to travel to Gqeberha to make the assessment himself so he can be vindicated of his choice.   

“Even now I still don’t believe that I am here. It is a great feeling and I always feel happy since I’ve been here and like I said, a year ago I didn’t think I would be here playing for my country,” added Nwabili. 

It’s not over yet. 

Nigeria now take on Cameroon for a spot in the quarterfinals on Saturday at the Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny in Abidjan hoping to replicate the kind of form that led them to the title a decade ago in South Africa. 

The Chippa United goalkeeper, expected to keep his place in the starting line-up, remains a key player in this fixture.