A CALL FOR VINCENT ENYEAMA
Never has the issue of goalkeeping in the nation’s apex football team become so unsettling like the present time with a great uncertainty of who is Nigeria’s safest hands in between the sticks for the Super Eagles.
There is no doubt at the moment, no Nigerian fan is confident about what ever choice has been made to fill in that position in crucial matches and the recent loss to South Africa also exposed the flank in dire need of a leader whose confidence will give teeming supporters the re-assurance that the defence line and even the entire team has a visioner on the pitch who will be able to take charge and organise his team mates no matter the opposition.
In the hey days of the then Green Eagles, goal keeping never had a vacuum as the likes of Carl O’Dwyer, Eyo Essien, Joe Erico, Sam Ibiam, Peter Fregene, Best Ogedengbe, Emmanuel Okala, Patrick Okala, Moses Effiong, Raymond King, David Ngodiga, Wilfred Agbonibare, Willy Okpara among others I can recollect had great abilities and reflexes that instilled confidence in the hearts of the fans who thronged the only fortress as at then the National Stadium, Surulere, to watch their heroes on the pitch.
Even though Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup with these legendary names despite their qualities and abilities, they ruled the continent with their exploits especially winning the Nations Cup in 1980 and with their various club sides in the local league and continental exploits with their various clubs.
Those were the days where talents were in abundance in the country as every street in every neighbourhood had a street game going on daily with young kids striving so hard to emulate their football heroes.
The transformation of the Green Eagles into the Super Eagles ushered a new generation of worthy safe hands in the likes of Peter ‘the rock’ Rufai who was part of that glorious Class of 1994 set of players of the Nigerian football team that had their maiden appearance at the World Cup- USA 94.
The new era has also featured Alloy Agu, Ike Shorunmu, Dosu Joseph, Austin Ejide, Dele Ayenugba, Vincent Enyeama ( easily the most successful Nigerain goalkeeper with his achievements and records), Carl Ikeme, Dele Alampasu, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi who in recent times has been the new number one choice for the Eagles.
With less than two months to a crucial Group B World Cup qualifier against African football Champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, the Eagles have a major challenge in the goalkeeping department.
If the poor performance of Daniel Akpeyi against South Africa was anything to go by, the sad news of the diagnosis of acute leukaemia on Carl Ikeme who had gradually warmed his way into the hearts of football fans with impressive displays so far and was knocked out of action with a spate of injuries has given every Nigerian much concern.
If Gernot Rorh and the Nigerian Football Federation must take a patriotic approach towards making a firm decision on who will be our safest pair of hands in our next two fixtures which remain very crucial, a choice has to be made urgently for a recall of Vincent Enyeama to the national team.
Ever since his retirement from the Super Eagles on October 8, 2015, the experimentation exercise in that position has continued to be rotational and Carl Ikeme was considered the best option to fill in the gaps for the centurion.
With due respect to the present crop of goalkeepers invited to the Super Eagles, none of them has the pedigree and character to build a strong defence when Nigeria will face Cameroun in a two legged encounter that will decide our fate on the road to Russia 2018.
Despite the fact that Vincent Enyeama’s club just let him go recently, the fact remains that he has the most experience, commands respect amongst his players, controls his defence line and entire team on the pitch, instils confidence in Nigerian fans, a likely threat to our foes, a big scare to the Camerounians and our best pair of safest hands at the moment.
The game against Cameroun will be no child’s play. The defeat against Bafana Bafana has been put aside. Yours sincerely is confident that Nigeria will qualify for the next Nations Cup which coincidentally will be played in Cameroun but the tide of our leadership in Group B on the road to Russia 2018 could be altered if we do not take the right steps and reach out to Vincent Enyeama.
Many may not understand the under wire bitterness that may have existed between the Nigeria Football Federation and Vincent Enyeama which led to his retirement from the team, but in the present circumstances, there is the need for the Technical Department of the football body to meet and be firm on this issue.
There is need to recall Vincent Enyeama to the Super Eagles. It is a patriotic call. A call to serve and defend his country a call for him to leave more milestones in his service to his fatherland, a call for the Super Eagles to consolidate on their strides with Enyeama.
These two crucial games against Cameroun will determine the fate and success story of the Amaju Pinnick Nigeria Football Federation led board. We have failed to appear at two consecutive Nations Cup editions, we have failed to feature in any age grade competitions in the FIFA World Cup this year, but Nigeria cannot fail to qualify for the next World Cup.
The country for once is on the driving seat of qualification path and with the below par performances of almost all our players who have become substitutes at their various clubs or unsettled with most of them playing in less fancied leagues, we cannot afford to compromise with the choice of a goalkeeper for the Super Eagles.
The race to Russia 2018 is not yet over, we are yet to get half way. If we parade a lack lustre team against Cameroun, we will pay a heavy price. Forget their dismal performance at the just concluded Confederations Cup in Russia, but any fixture between Nigeria and Cameroun is an A list encounter. It turns to a ‘war’ on and off the pitch. Just like when the Eagles play Ghana.
Last year when the Eagles started the World Cup campaign, Nigerians believed in the new foundation we were laying under Gernot Rorh’s managerial skills. The fans saw possibilities in our new crop of players which featured a blend of the young and old players. Some of us projected to the future in our write ups hoping with faith that the pace and consistency of this team will be sustained till date.
Unfortunately, we are all aware of the challenges most of our players have faced in recent months and the game against South Africa further exposed the team and in making this new curve to redemption, we do not need to make mistakes in the choice of players invited for this crunch encounters ahead as only the best will be good enough.
At the moment, the Eagles Manager, Gernot Rorh is currently abroad contacting his players and recent events which have affected the goalkeeping department should give him his technical crew and the technical department of the Football House that there is an urgent need for a truce in reaching out to Vincent Enyeama to make a return.
Vincent Enyeama will gladly accept this honour because he knows and understands that he is a patriot, a gentleman who will not allow his personal thoughts affect the outcome of his country reaching the World Cup finals next year.
He may not be the best goalkeeper in the World but has remained the most active and consistent safest hands till date and the wealth of experience and backline control will be of added advantage to the new crop of players especially the goalkeepers who will look up to him as a leader that will pivot the team to greatness. This is a call to serve his fatherland and he will gladly accept it only if the relevant authorities will believe.