Nigeria Icon Peter Rufai Backs Stanley Nwabali to Cement Super Eagles Spot After 2023 AFCON Heroics

Nigeria Icon Peter Rufai Backs Stanley Nwabali to Cement Super Eagles Spot After 2023 AFCON Heroics

Edwin Kiplagat
February 26, 2024 at 7:39 PM
In this article:
S. Nwabali
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Chippa United logo
Chippa United
South Africa
Ronwen Williams logo
R. Williams
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South Africa
South Africa
  • Stanley Nwabali was impressive at the 2023 AFCON
  • The Chippa United goalkeeper kept four clean sheets
  • Peter Rufai explains why Nwabali is Nigeria's No. 1

Stanley Nwabali was Nigeria's hero at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.

The Chippa United goalkeeper played a major role in the Super Eagles' unexpected run to the final, where they lost to hosts Ivory Coast.

Stanley Nwabali saved, Nigeria, Chippa United goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho, 2023 AFCON, Peter Rufai won the 1994 AFCON
Stanley Nwabali was Nigeria's hero at the 2023 AFCON. Photo by Issouf Sanogo.
Source: Getty Images

The 27-year-old had two caps to his name before the tournament kicked off on January 13. Francis Uzoho was the preferred No. 1 under the previous manager, and Maduka Okoye before him.

His selection to start Nigeria's first match against Equatorial Guinea raised a few eyebrows, but the former Katsina United star repaid the faith.

He played every match for Jose Peseiro's side, making important saves throughout the tournament.

His biggest moment came in the semi-final against South Africa. He saved penalties from Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena to send the Super Eagles to the final, per BBC.

Nwebali was unlucky to miss out on the team of the tournament. Bafana Bafana's Ronwen Williams was selected ahead of him.

Rufai backs Nwabali

Peter Rufai won the 1994 AFCON with Nigeria and captained the Super Eagles at the 1994 World Cup. He says Nwabali is now the undisputed No. 1.

“There is no doubt that Nwabali’s performance at the 2023 AFCON has put him in a better position to continue as the team’s number one goalkeeper," per Complete Sports.
“He has proven himself beyond every reasonable doubt based on what he has achieved within the space of three weeks of the tournament."

According to Rufai, Nwabali is now ahead of Uzoho and Udinese goalkeeper Okoye.

“For me, he has done enough to remain Super Eagles number one goalkeeper.”

Nwabali will be 30 during the 2026 World Cup, so barring any injury, he will be in goal for Nigeria in North America.

Nwabali accepts Williams as best goalkeeper

Sports Brief earlier reported on Nwabali saying that Williams deserved to win the Golden Glove at the AFCON 2023.

The Chippa United goalkeeper was superb in the competition as he conceded four goals, of which three were from open play, but Williams still bettered it.

The Bafana Bafana goalkeeper made a name for himself in the tournament in South Africa's quarter-final clash with Cape Verde, in which he saved four penalties during the penalty shoot-out.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Edwin Kiplagat has five years of experience in journalism working as a Sports Editor at Africa Insight Communications and ESPN. Edwin Kiplagat is a Bachelor's Degree holder in journalism from the Multimedia University of Kenya.