Joshua Akpudje is set to make his long-awaited debut for new club BFC Daugavpils later today and after a delay of more than two months, the imposing centre-back can’t wait to show his qualities.
Akpudje, 21, joined the Latvian Higher League side in March after spending one and a half seasons at Nigeria Professional Football League side MFM FC where his prodigious talent marked him out as a future star.
The move marked a new chapter in the meteoric and magical rise of the defender who only made his professional football debut last season.
He had looked forward to making his first appearance in European football in March when BFC Daugavpils were initially supposed to welcome Liepāja to the 3,980-capacity Celtnieks Stadium in the season-opening round of fixtures.
But that game together with the rest of the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the league finally set to kick off on Monday, Akpudje is in line for a first taste of European football and the player believes he must keep his wits about him, keep things simple and not get overwhelmed by the occasion.
“Yeah, I am looking to my first game. It is going to be the first game I’ll be playing for the team, and my first league game in Europe,” Akpudje told busybuddiesng.com from his base in Latvia.
“So, I just have to be calm and play my football and do the basics the coach asks me to and give my best and leave the rest to God,”
The Nigeria U23 international who will wear the number 44 jersey at his club side says he’s fully settled into Daugavpils where his teammates have welcomed him “like a brother”.
He had to adjust to living outside Nigeria for the first time, but he has been lucky to meet a pair of Nigerians already at the club who have taken him under their wings ensuring that he isn’t lonely in a strange land.
“The city is good and everywhere is good you know when an African man comes to a new environment sure everywhere is cold and it’s not easy though I just have to adapt,” he said.
“My teammates are lovely they are kind they have welcomed me as a brother and I’m happy being with them and I’ve never had a thought of doubting or regretting I’m here.
“I was so very happy seeing a Nigerian boy in the team, though I never knew they know me before but when they told me ‘Joshua we know you from Nigeria playing in the NPFL’ I said wow.
“They’ve been the ones taking care of me since when I’ve gotten here to this moment.
“I’m very happy that I can play my football and speak to my brothers too I have here. They are lovely brothers one is Idowu [David Akintola], one is [Nnamdi] Chinonso Offor. I’m happy being with them.”
Formed in 2009, BFC Daugavpils are a modest side for whom survival is a priority having escaped a second straight relegation in their second spell in the 10-team topflight last season.
But despite their modest status, Akpudje believes the club can achieve something great this season and has set his sights on winning the championship or at least, sealing a top-three finish for a European spot.
“Being in my new club now, I have to give all my beat for the team and try to show all my hard work try to work with the team try to keep the team in good shape and looking to win the league and going to the Europa [League] and Champions League.”
BFC Daugavpils vs Liepāja kicks off at 4pm Nigerian time.