by Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello
At the age of 37, Vincent Enyeama was forced to hang his boots, long before social media obsession became the order of the day in the Super Eagles.
We had the finest in Peter Rufai, Nigeria need not wait for too long and after his retirement, he was replaced by Vincent Enyeama. But seven years after Enyeama’s retirement as goalkeeper and captain, he seems irreplaceable. We have not had a worthy goalkeeper in the Super Eagles. It’s been trial and error.
With great line-up of talented and experienced goalkeepers in Nigeria, Maduka Okoye is not worthy of the number one goalkeeping role. It should be the one.
In the middle of a tournament, a goalkeeper was busy granting interviews on who he wants to date and the kind of girls he fancy, I mean, it doesn’t make any sense…. He got carried away with the praises and the little fame he got at the group stage. I mean girls were all over him, they think he is handsome, and rightfully so, but in football, looks is not enough, it cannot save a goal and win a medal talk less of winning a trophy. AFCON is not a beauty pageant.
Having said that, talents abound in Nigeria and I wonder the rationale behind the well-packaged emptiness of Maduka Okoye. What are his antecedents. We have Francis Uzoho, Daniel Akpeyi, Olorunleke Ojo, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and other goalkeepers – experienced and doing well in their respective clubs. Some have been outstanding in the past for the National teams.
Since the retirement of Vincent Enyeama, we have been struggling to get it right in terms of goalkeeping. We had a superb goalkeeper’s trainer in Ike Shorunmu and I wonder why he wasn’t a part of the technical crew that travelled to AFCON.
There are better goalkeepers in the Nigerian league and by all means necessary, they must be invited and utilized. The time is now. Enyeama is a product of the Nigerian league system, he worked on himself, very disciplined and determined and he worked hard for team and country before a Football Federation official frustrated him out of the game.
The incoming coach of the Super Eagles and his technical crew must be on the lookout for a goalkeeper, that’s if it would be necessary because goalkeeping talents ‘dey yanfu yanfu’. Francis Uzoho should be given better chances, he is by far better and more experienced than Maduka Okoye. I am not canceling Okoye out, I mean, just reduce his engagements.
It will be a long journey for us to replace Enyeama but it will definitely happen. I believe we will. We do not have much time, March is almost here for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Who is big enough to wear Enyeama’s boots in Nigeria?
Side note: Now that Peseiro is coming, there are no friendly matches, he hasn’t met with the players, never had a one-on-one with them before and from all indications, he will lead them against Ghana in March. May God help Nigeian football.
_Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello is an award-winning international journalist, public speaker, gender rights and peace advocate, and a seasoned sports governance analyst_