Home japan financial crisis Kelechi Nwakali: How former Arsenal World Cup winner Nigeria got trapped in work permit hell

Kelechi Nwakali: How former Arsenal World Cup winner Nigeria got trapped in work permit hell


There are many reasons why a player may struggle to live up to the status of “wondekid”. Bad attitude, injuries, bad relationship with a manager, the wrong move at the wrong time, the pressures of expectations – the list goes on.

Kelechi Nwakali maybe ticks some of those boxes, but the main reason the Nigerian midfielder has yet to live up to the hype is a word that scares everyone’s hearts – red tape.

Nwakali signed for Arsenal as a teenager in 2016, having played a leading role in Nigeria’s triumph in the Under-17 World Cup in Chile the previous year.

Nigeria were the undisputed star of the competition, scoring 23 goals in seven matches, including a 5-1 group stage loss to hosts Chile, beating Australia 6-0 in the round of 16, beating Brazil 3- 0 in the last eight, beating Mexico 4-2 in the semi-finals before beating Mali 2-0 in a Pan-African final.

The team had two main stars: Victor Osimhen, who won the Golden Boot with a mammoth of 10 goals; and Nwakali, the midfield dynamo who won the Ballon d’Or for best player.

The trophy was won by several players who went on to become major stars, including Landon Donovan, Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos.

However, while Osimhen was one of the most requested strikers in world football last summer, making a big blow to Napoli after impressing in Lille, Nwakali instead fell off the radar of world football.

Indeed, the 22-year-old is now on loan to Spain’s second division Alcorcon from La Liga club Huesca.

Kelechi Nwakali Nigeria

He had joined Arsenal from Diamond Football Academy in Nigeria, but work permit issues kept him from playing in the Premier League. Instead, he had to spend time on loan in the Netherlands with MVV Maastricht and VVV-Venlo.

Arriving in England from outside Europe with no experience at the senior international level, Nwakali was left in limbo due to paperwork issues, but he says he was targeted by some fans, who saw to mistakenly his lack of playing time as a waste of his talent.

His own U17 coach, former Nigeria international Emmanuel Amuneke, appeared to echo these claims about Nwakali’s attitude, telling Goal in April 2020: “There is no doubt about Nwakali’s talent.

“All he has to do is counsel himself and realize that when you forget the root that made you successful, you start to lose the beauty of what made you who you are.

“A lot of Nigerians expect his progress but it is unfortunate because of what he has been through over the years. He also has to check out the lifestyle he leads and know that without football he cannot is nobody.

Nwakali rejected these personal attacks, arguing that there was nothing to be done about his inability to break through at Arsenal in his youth.

“It was mentally tough not playing for a year, so going through all of that and coming on the internet to see someone say I’m galvanizing, was hurtful,” he told the BBC in September 2020. “A lot of Nigerian fans felt like I was just sitting around doing nothing.”

A loan to Porto in 2018-19 was meant to be his chance to step into the European spotlight, but he never played for Portugal’s first team, making just 16 appearances for Porto B.

Things got even worse in March 2019, when he found himself stranded in Nigeria due to even more visa problems.

Kelechi Nwakali Huesca

Manager Gernot Rohr had called the player up to face Seychelles in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Nwakali did not play and soon found himself again at the mercy of the administration.

“I didn’t have a Portuguese Resident Card, it wasn’t ready before I left, but I had to come to this game as it was my first official call-up for the Super Eagles. I was stuck in Nigeria for three month, he told the BBC .

“It was difficult to get a visa for Portugal, I couldn’t go back to my club for three months and at the end of the season nobody wanted to take me, they said I had not played.

“I learned a lesson that it is important for you to be successful first in your club, the national team is important, but important decisions have to be made, it will help my career in the future and I have not taken the right one at the right time. “

Arsenal ultimately appeared to decide that Nwakali’s troubles were more problematic than they were, and in September 2019 he was cleared to leave.

The player himself did not appear to have any ill will, writing on Instagram: “I have saved a lot of my time here and everyone involved at the club has been great to me.

“I just want to say a big thank you and goodbye, because it’s time to move on, time for another chapter and another challenge.”

He admitted in an interview with TribalFootball last year it was a tear to leave Arsenal, but the need to establish and take root as a first-team player was greater.

“It was difficult for me to leave because they wanted me to stay,” Nwakali said. “But at the same time, I needed to have a place where I could call my home, where I could continue to develop my game.”

Nwakali is now taking small steps towards this goal.

Settled in Spain with a three-year contract at Huesca and the prospect of regular football for the rest of the campaign at Alcorcon, the Nigerians are now hoping that one of their most promising players of recent years can finally start playing. become good.

Here are some of the other articles from Goals Forgotten Men Series:

Tosic and Ljajic: The Lost Boys of Man Utd

Missing hotels and military service: the story of Arsenal pariah Park Chu-young

Chelsea’s future of endless loans: Baba Rahman’s downfall

Three managers, no Premier League goals and a bizarre Neighbors cameo: Milan Jovanovic’s nightmare at Liverpool

Henrique: Guardiola’s € 8million forgotten Barcelona spare

Fines for speeding, swaps and sushi burritos: Andre Santos’ strange career at Arsenal

Kakuta: Chelsea’s forgotten prodigy who could have been a star for Lampard

‘My daughter’s face changed color’ – How Nolito went from perfect Pep transfer to worst signing at Man City

Pedro Leon: How potential Real Madrid star became Mourinho’s punching bag

From Man Utd title winner to Cyprus exit after 17 days: Alexander Buttner’s downfall


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