Super Eagles goalkeeper Francis Uzoho has hit back at criticisms over his goalkeeping abilities and insinuations that he falsified his age.
The criticisms about his ability and age have been an albatross around Uzoho’s neck since his international bow in a friendly against Argentina in November 2017.
Aged 19 at the time of his Super Eagles bow, many Nigerians struggled to reconcile Uzoho’s given age with his physical appearance.
With age cheating a matter of fact in Nigerian football, Uzoho was subjected to widespread taunting for seemingly misrepresenting his age.
His jittery performances between the sticks for the national team in the lead up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup gave his critics yet another stick to beat him with.
His status as Nigeria’s number one at the Mundial was dismissed as unjustified and only possible because Eagles manager Gernot Rohr favoured him unduly – something that caused Uzoho’s stock to plummet even further with Nigerians.
The former AC Omonia goalkeeper eventually dropped to the bench for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt over a lack of match time at Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna.
The former Elche goalie who is edging his way to full fitness following knee surgery from an injury sustained in an international friendly against Brazil last October admitted to being affected by the criticisms early on in his career.
Speaking in an Instagram interview with the Super Eagles media channel, the former U-17 star admitted that he struggled to deal with the more personal aspects of the criticisms but has learned to shrug them off and focus on more important things.
“One cannot run away from critics these days with the way the internet is,” Uzoho said.
“When I am criticised, I will consider what is written, if the person is right I will take their opinion, if the person is wrong and talking for talking sake, I will just pass.”
Uzoho said he was so affected that he became “afraid” of social media but has now learned how to navigate the online world without incident.
“When I first started playing for the Super Eagles, I was crazy. People do not know me, so when they imagine things in their head and express it verbally, it’s their right I don’t really do social media, don’t do many interviews so maybe that fuels it,” the 21-year-old said.
“I say I should try and do more, but I am afraid of it. When they wrote things about me, I was a boy, 18 years I didn’t know how to handle it, but some people helped me and showed me this is how social media works.”
While he has come to terms with being criticised for his shortcomings as a footballer, Uzoho said criticism that goes beyond his actions on the pitch is “not right”.
“Fair enough if people criticise me for football if I make a mistake “you cannot keep”, “you no sabi ball”, that is fair enough, but going outside of football is not right, but then again, I don’t mind them anymore.”
“I remember once I was at Elche, I was in a league match, we had lost 5-1, with the 4th goal I broke my ribs and was in pain, coming back from the hospital I was in pain, and I fired back on Instagram. I could not take it; it went to my head, and I responded.”