The goalkeeping department of Nigeria’s Super Eagles is one section that raises acrimonious and heated debates among fans of the team.
Under the 5 year reign of previous manager, Gernot Rohr, a consortium of keepers had manned Nigeria’s goal without really convincing most supporters of the three time African champions.
The reigning number one goalie Rohr inherited when he took over in 2016 was the former Wolverhampton Wanderers keeper Carl Ikeme who looked the part with some sterling performances in his 10 game career with the Eagles, but was forced to bow out of service after he was diagnosed with Leukaemia, a cancer disease.
Ikeme’s exit from Nigeria’s senior national football team led to a frantic search for a suitable replacement which forced handlers of the side to trial the likes of Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi, Francis Uzoho, Emmanuel Osigwe, Dele Alampasu and the current and much maligned number one, Maduka Okoye.
This set of keepers, despite giving their best in goal for the nation, greatly divide opinions among the team’s ardent supporters whom majority of them had witnessed the glory days of some of the nation’s finest goal minders.
One of these finest net minders remains the former captain and second highest capped, 101, national team player, Vincent Enyeama whom, despite retired from active football, some die hard supporters believe can still dislodge the current crop of goalies in the Super Eagles.
A reincarnation of the 39 year old AFCON 2013 winner in the national side mirrors expectations from majority of stakeholders of the game across the country.
However, Vincent has completely ruled out a re-emergence of the exact copy of himself:
“We should stop searching for the next Vincent Enyeama.
“This thing comes once in a lifetime, once in a while, once in a decade.
“We should work with what we have, whatever quality, whosever we decide to work with, we should work with.
“Let’s stop searching for the next Vincent because it’s just like searching for the next Maradonna, Ronaldo, Messi or Jay Jay Okocha.
“We will get another keeper as good as Vincent Enyeama but not another Enyeama.”
In the absence of another Vincent in goal for Nigeria, apprehension has heightened about the Eagles’ chances in next month’s Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Black Stars of Ghana.
The fears are coming on the heels of the nation’s round of 16 elimination in the just concluded AFCON in Cameroon, which was largely blamed, by some analysts, on the perceived weak goalkeeping department of the Super Eagles.
Dispelling the apprehensive situation, Enyeama, who remains Africa’s highest scoring goalkeeper with 20 goals and 17th in the world, said the Eagles were better equipped to scale the Ghana hurdle:
“We have a massive team; they are very good and Ghana is not in the best shape at the moment.
“So we stand a chance against Ghana if we prepare and train well, take the match serious as it should be taken.”
It’s worthy of note that there is a measure of seriousness on the part of the Nigeria Football Federation NFF towards the Ghana game after it drafted former Barcelona FC player Emmanuel Amuneke into the coaching crew of the team to assist Augustine Eguavoen who holds the Technical Adviser role.
“Amuneke is a part of the golden generation of Nigerian football,” echoed Enyeama, “it’s a very good decision to draft him in to work with Eguavoen.
“The likes of Siasia, Oliseh, Eguavoen, Shorunmu and some others are parts of that golden generation.”
Arguably Enyeama also qualifies as a part of Nigeria’s golden generation having played in three world cups, won CAF champions League with local club Enyimba International and scored in the UEFA champions League as a keeper with French side, Lille OSC.
But will his experience be useful in the senior national team coaching set up?:
“Vinny is ready to serve the country, whenever he’s called upon.
“But I will never make steps towards serving the country because I was kicked out, disgraced and thrown into the streets.
“But I am available to serve Nigeria whenever am called upon.
“Currently I am trying to get my badges and get certified for my future.”
Knowing that Vincent Enyeama is doing his badges is quite refreshing as it will expand the growing number of ex internationals who have chosen the coaching profession after announcing their retirement from the sport.
Some of these ex players with various UEFA badges include Sunday Oliseh, Mutiu Adepoju, Emmanuel Amuneke, Finidi George at Enyimba, Eddy Dombraye et al.
Time will tell if the trend suggests a secure future for the game at all levels back home.