The search for an effective replacement for veteran goalkepeer Vincent Enyeama in the Super Eagles has been on since 2015 no thanks to Leukemia for halting the career of Carl Ikeme .
In today’s edition of ‘History book’ we take a look back at Vincent Enyeama’s rise to become the undisputed Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer in 2002 whilst on the books of Enyimba International FC .
We will also present the unpopular opinion held by some Nigerian fans in relation to the search for the solution to the Eagles goalkepeing challenge . Plus the difference between then (2002) and now (2022).
THE SUPER EAGLES GOALKEEPING UNIT OF 2022 AND THE CALL FOR HOME BASED SOLUTIONS
Following costly errors by Maduka Okoye and Francis Uzoho at the 2021 AFCON and 2022 World Cup qualification playoffs respectively, an unpopular opinion berthed amongst Nigerian soccer fans.
Promoters of this opinion are suggesting the home based goalkepeers be trusted in goal to end the search for the next Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer .
For them , the current crop of NPFL goalie’s can step up to the task of effectively guarding the posts of the Jose Paseiro tutored Super Eagles team just like Enyeama stepped into the shoe of Ike Shorunmu in 2002 .
ENYEAMA IN THE BEGINNING
Enyeama began his career with now defunct Ibom Stars FC in his home state , Akwa Ibom .
His 56 appearances for Ibom Stars from 1999-2001 attracted interest and a transfer to Enyimba International FC in 2001
At Enyimba International FC, Enyeama took the Nigerian league by storm , his performances catching the attention of Super Eagles handlers and a debut for the Eagles happened in May 2002 .
Enyeama was so good that Coach Adegboyega Onigbinde selected him as cover for Ike Shorunmu at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and eventually trusted him in goal vs England in their final group game of the tournament .
After keeping a clean sheet vs a star studded English team , Enyeama had done enough already to sign Ike Shorunmu’s retirement papers and install himself as the Eagles goal custodian in chief .
Those prioritizing base over talent in the search for the next Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer will always try in vain to ignore that in 2002 , Enyeama was conquering Africa with Enyimba International FC.
At the moment , that feat is a tall dream for any Nigerian club with the North African clubs taking turns to hurt Nigerian representatives . No Nigerian club has won the CAF Champions League since the 2004 .
After excelling at the 2002 World Cup as understudy to Iker Shorunmu, Enyeama unlike the current crop of home based players did not jump out of Nigeria immediately after the tournament .
Today a player is invited to the Super Eagles team as a home based player , one good performance later , they are off to football leagues in Europe .
Most times , this players end up signing depressing contracts that stunt their growth and ultimately end their hopes of flourishing on the international stage .
That wasn’t the Enyeama story. After his World Cup appearance in 2002 , Enyeama was instrumental to Enyimba International FC winning back to back CAF Champions League title in 2003 and 2004 whilst cementing his spot as the Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer ahead of the foreign based duo of Austin Ejide and Greg Etefia .
This exploits on the continent and the established profile as Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer won him a deal with Isreali club Bnei Yehuda where he continued his development through to Hapoel Tel Aviv and Lille where he starred to become a 101 cap Nigerian International.
With due respect to the current crop of NPFL players, the league in Enyeama’s time was blessed with more quality because the current season by season shipping of quality players abroad was not the culture of that time .
WHAT NEXT FOR THE SUPER EAGLES GOALKEPEING UNIT
Vincent Enyeama has taken his place in the History book already , if the likes of Adewale Adeyinka , Ojo Olorunleke , Kayode Bankole and other talented NPFL goalkepeers must better Ikechukwu Ezenwa’s attempt at claiming the Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer shirt , then they must prove their quality at any given opportunity .
So rather than suggest the NPFL should be trusted to produce the next Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer , throw up the names with the prerequisite talent for the role to compete with Okoye , Uzoho and Adeleye who have earned the call-up for the next Super Eagles game vs Algeria on September 23 .
In the search for the Super Eagles first choice goalkepeer, Nigerians are passionately on the watch for who will deliver consistently like Vincent Enyeama .
The current base is not a factor but talent and result . If the home based lads can step in like Enyeama did, very good . All Nigerians want is a trusted name for the big moments that will in future grace the History book