Nigeria trainer Ike Shorunmu has explained why new Watford custodian Maduka Okoye was not available for selection when the Super Eagles played against Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe in their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers earlier this month.
Despite being summoned to the provisional squad by new coach Jose Peseiro, the 22-year-old Okoye did not make matchday squads for the two qualifiers on June 9 and 13.
Nigeria first played the Leone Stars in their Group A opener which they won 2-1 at Abuja National Stadium before they hammered Sao Tome 10-0 in their second fixture at Stade Adrar in Morocco.
Okoye’s absence saw Francis Uzoho, who turns out for Cypriot outfit Omonia FC, start in the two matches as the Super Eagles moved top of their group with six points.
Shorunmu has shed light on the absence of the former Sparta Rotterdam star, whose last involvement for Nigeria came in the 33rd edition of Afcon in Cameroon, where he conceded the only goal as Tunisia ended their title hopes in the Round of 16 fixture.
“He [Okoye] was not in the team in their last two games before we came on board but he was called up for the friendlies in the USA,” Shorunmu said as quoted by Punch.
“But the secretary of the team sent me a message he received through a friend that he [Okoye] wanted to be excused for the games as he wanted to focus on settling in at his new club which I rightly understand.
“He is at a new club and he needs to prove himself well with the new coach at the club unlike when he was with his former team where he knew the terrain better.
“I have been in such situations before when I changed club so I understand what he is going through but we hope to have him back in the team in September for the next Afcon qualifiers.”
Okoye has already linked up with Watford in readiness for the new season where they will participate in the EFL Championship after being relegated from the Premier League last season.
The Hornets will kick off their campaign to regain their top-flight status with a home game against Sheffield United at Vicarage Road on August 1.