The news of acute leukaemia afflicting Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, jolted the coaching crew of Nigeria especially after former captain and goalkeeper of the team, Vincent Enyeama, had reiterated his intention not to return to the team after his altercation with former coach, Sunday Oliseh. Though Ikechukwu Ezenwa has done well after being drafted into the team, some are of the opinion that he may not perform on the biggest stage. Enyeama may have to consider returning to the national team and re-launch his career after troubles with his French club, Lille, Kunle Adewale reports
In 2015, Enyeama announced his retirement from international football after a clash with the then Coach Sunday Oliseh of the Super Eagles, ending his 13-year association with the national team.
“I have fought a good fight for more than 13years. I have finished my course; I have kept the faith and sang the anthem with passion. Henceforth, there is laid for me a crown which only God can reward me for my 13 years of national services. God bless Nigeria.
“From Henceforth, I am no more the captain of the Nigerian senior football team; I am no more the goalie of the team, I am out of the team. I am no more available for international duties. I want to say thank you to every Nigerian fan and supporter worldwide. It’s been the most trying period of my life but I know that Nigerians are there for me and God is with me. God bless Nigeria,” he had said on Instagram then.
However, according to Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, the former goalkeeper and captain of the team had so far given him positive signals during discussions about a possible return to the team. Rohr is keen on having the former Lille of France shot stopper back in the team due to his experience and abilities.
” It’s been positive so far, we are yet to get to a point where he will say yes or no. I need him (Enyeama) in the team. We need his experience alongside Ikeme, then we can have a young talented goalkeeper as understudy. We will meet again in the coming days to talk further, I can’t put a time frame to when talks will take place but it’s very soon. Hopefully it will be positive,” Rohr had told Owngoalnigeria.com.
Former Super Eagles captain, Kanu Nwankwo, said he was willing to talk to Enyeama, to come out of retirement. In spite of Ikechukwu Ezenwa doing well, Rohr seems not to trust the home-based keeper.
Kanu said Nigeria needed “world class” Enyeama “badly”.
“As it is now, we need Vincent badly. In my opinion, Enyeama should come back immediately. Whoever is close enough to reach him should tell him to start coming back. Enyeama is very good. He is one of the best players in Africa, and one of the best in the world. Let the federation look into it and do everything they can to bring him back. If Enyeama says he doesn’t want to come, people like us can talk to him; the federation too can talk to him. If a lot of people talk to him, I’m sure that definitely he will change his mind,” the two-time African Player of the Year told KweséESPN.
“And not just Enyeama, let us look at some of the other active goalkeepers too. If we have like four goalkeepers there training, there will be competition and the coach can have more options to make his decision,” he said.
In a chat with former Nigeria international, Tajudeen Disu, he said in as much as he believed the best players should represent the country at the World Cup, he would not subscribe to Enyeama manning the post for the Super Eagles.
“At this stage, our focus should be on how to have our best legs in Russia, not players that want to use the World Cup to bounce back to reckoning. It’s surprising that some people could be thinking of bringing back a player who is more or less without a club to the World Cup. Moreover, the circumstances that led to Enyeama’s quitting the national team are not even ideal for his recall,” Disu said.
For Waidi Akani, another former Nigeria international, recalling Enyeama to the national team now would be one of the most retrogressive moves by those at the helms of our football.
“Trying to bring him back will call for a lot of questions. Is Vincent Enyeama in good shape for the mundial? What positivity will his presence bring to the dressing room? How will the other goalkeepers feel with his presence? Are there no other goalkeepers in the country that could take his place? These are just some of the questions that may arise with the recall of Enyeama,” Akani said.
Akani warned that at this stage, sentiments should not be allowed to take over reasoning.
It would be recalled that at the beginning of the season Enyeama was told to leave his club by the new manager, Marcelo Biesla.
“I want to establish myself at Lille. It’s the club that wants me to leave. We’ll see if they find a solution between now and the end of the transfer window. I’m calm. It’s a bit bizarre, but I’m handling it OK. I was informed like the others, by text. We’re under contract; the club does what it wants. We would have liked to have had a discussion. But it’s a business choice made by the bosses,” Enyeama had said.
Enyeama was eventually allowed to stay by Biesla. On Monday, he resumed training with the club after a long injury lay off and revealed that he was nearing full fitness after a long injury-enforced lay-off. He received a knock while in action for Lille in April and hasn’t featured for the French side since then. A surgery on his injured knee followed suit in May and after that, it’s been intensive rehabilitation for the ex-Enyimba goalie.
Enyeama took to Twitter on Tuesday to give the latest update from the treatment room. He said, “And after six months, first group training; thanks be to God and everyone who worked tirelessly for me to get here.” It remains to be seen whether Enyeama will be welcome back into Lille first team by Coach Bielsa. The Argentine tactician on arriving in the summer deemed the Nigerian and several other senior players surplus to requirements. While most of the lads have since moved on in search of greener pastures, Enyeama remained at the club to gain full fitness. The ex-Super Eagles skipper is still heralded as the one of the finest of his generation.
The question on the lips of many observers is that, should a goalkeeper who has not been active since the beginning of the season be the person Nigeria should rely on in a competition as big as the World Cup?
Born on August 29, 1982, Enyeama had a spell with Enyimba FC of Aba and won the CAF Champions League back-to-back. After three seasons with Enyimba and one with Iwuanyanwu Nationale, he moved to a minor club in Israel, Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv. In 2007, he moved to another Israeli side, Hapoel Tel Aviv, which he helped reach the state cup final.