John Noble Barinyima knows making his debut for Nigeria in either of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Benin Republic or Lesotho will be an uphill task considering the competition but even as he basks in the surrealness of a maiden Super Eagles call up, the Enyimba goalkeeper intends to compete ferociously and leave a lasting impression on the goalkeeping coaches.
The 27-year-old well-travelled shot-stopper has gained an elevated national profile on the back of several eye-catching performances in his debut season with the Aba Elephants and is by some measure the outstanding goalkeeper in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Not that it occurred to him that his performances this season could put him within the sights of Eagles boss Gernot Rohr but ever the stickler for professionalism and hard-work, Barinyima always strives to give his best at all times and says the call up is “nothing else” but reward for his hard work.
“For me, I feel very happy. It is the dream of every Nigerian player to represent your country so when I got the invitation, I was so excited. I was so excited and I return all glory to God,” the former Cynosure FC player said.
“For me, I wasn’t expecting it now. But then, what I do in each of my game I put in my best, put in extra effort, and work hard hoping someday it will come up and so when I got the invitation, I was so happy because I just saw it as a result of hard work, nothing else.”
Now that he’s been afforded a foot into the national team door, Barinyima who began his career in Nigeria before stints with AS Kara of Togo and Pantel Sportive of Cameroon would like to go one more and actually play for Nigeria.
That decision, he says, is in the hands of the coaches but he intends to make their choice a difficult one with the returning Francis Uzoho and current number one Maduka Okoye presenting formidable competition.
“Goalkeeping job is something that everybody has his own style and pattern of goalkeeping,” he says. “For me, I’m going to in there and put in my effort. I’m going to go in there and do my work and the goalkeeper coach will decide. If I’m given the opportunity, trust me, I’ll put in my work and I’ll put in extra effort to deliver for the country,” he added with the sort of confidence with which he dispatched the winning penalty kick to oust Rivers United from the CAF Confederation Cup.
The Eagles will play in Lagos for the first time in a decade when they take on Lesotho in the final qualifier and with CAF deciding to allow spectators up to 30% of the Teslim Balogun Stadium for the clash, the fixture assumes added impetus and Barinyima says he can’t wait to experience the famous Lagos atmosphere.
“I’m looking forward to that. You know Lagos is a big town with a lot of fans and crowd everywhere,” he said. “You know football is about fun, when you see people around cheering you up, people watching you, giving you that mind to go and deliver and I’m very happy about that.”
Nigeria top their group with eight points and need just a point to seal their place in Cameroon. They take on Benin Republic at the Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on Saturday before facing the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos three days later.