Nwakali: Visa Problems Almost Derailed My Career

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Kelechi Nwakali

By Olawale Ajimotokan with agency report

After overcoming initial paperworks that kept his on the sideline for almost six months, Nigerian midfielder, Kelechi Nwakali has put that nightmare behind, starting his career with Spanish LaLiga clubside, Huesca.

Speaking with BBC Sports yesterday, the former FIFA Under-17 World Cup top scorer, revealed that initial visa problems almost scuttled his promising career.

The 22-year-old was a 63rd minute substitute in newly-promoted Huesca’s 1-1 draw at Samuel Chukwueze’s Villareal on Sunday as the new La Liga season kicked off.

Both Nwakali and Chukwueze were teammates in the Golden Eaglets squad led by Emmanuel Amuneke that won that edition in 2015 in Chile.

Nwakali spent much of his time since August 2018 battling visa issues which have limited his chances to play.

Problems with red-tape and a lack of playing time while on loan from English side Arsenal to Portuguese club Porto left him very low on confidence.

“There was a time, I was having doubt in myself, I wondered if I was not up to it anymore,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

“It was difficult mentally for me but my mind was made up, that I had to leave.”

He however secured a move to Spanish side Huesca in August last year from Arsenal but once again red-tape prevented him from playing.

Instead he was forced to sit-out the first six month of his contract in Nigeria trying to secure the documentation that he needed.

It led to accusations from some in Nigeria that he ‘spent more time posting images on social media than actually playing football.’

“It was difficult mentally not playing for a year, so going through all of that and coming on the internet to see someone say, I am gallivanting, was hurtful, I was bothered,” he explained.

“A lot of Nigerian fans had the impression that I am just sitting in Nigeria doing nothing.”

His paperwork issues were finally resolved in January and allowed him to play Huesca’s final five games of the season as they clinched promotion to La Liga.

“It is a new beginning, I have had my ups and downs, but this is the time to make it right again, this is the time to get it back on track,” he insisted.

“As the season progresses, I believe I am going to play more, right now I also play as a Number 4, the coach is trying to see the roles for which he can always feature me’ he explains.

“I can play as a number 10, 8 and 4 and I believe it’s a great advantage for me and I can always help the team.”

A lack of work permit to play football in the United Kingdom saw Arsenal send Nwakali out on loan three times in the duration of his five year contract, the last of which was with Porto in 2018.