Vincent Enyeama announced last week Friday that he was quitting Lille after seven years at the French Ligue 1 club. Having last manned the post for the club April last year, the fans of the Les Dogues, however, would not forget the fond memories left behind by the former Hapoel Tel Aviv safe-hand
Former Super Eagles captain, Vincent Enyeama last week Friday announced dumping French Ligue 1 side, Lille, after seven years. “Beyond his performances, LOSC and his supporters will remember Vincent’s smile and enthusiasm. The club now wishes him the best in his future projects,” a brief statement on their official website read.
“The adventure has ended. I thank Lille supporters for their incredible support during these seven years, which were, for me, years of happiness and joy. Thank you, a thousand times, thank you, for this love that you’ve given me,” Enyeama wrote on Twitter.
Enyeama 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.
On the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa as Lille’s coach last year, the Argentine tactician deemed the Nigerian and several other senior players surplus to requirements and while most of the lads have since moved on in search of greener pastures, Enyeama remained at the club to gain full fitness.
“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.
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 13 years. 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.
“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, when the news of acute leukaemia to Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme first greeted Nigeria, it jolted the coaching crew of Super Eagles and there were calls from many circles for the return of Enyeama in spite of the fact that second choice goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa had not done badly since being drafted to the team.
Super Eagles tactician, Gernot Rohr, then made move for the former goalkeeper and captain of the team to reverse his decision as the German was 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 in the team. We need his experience, then we can have a young talented goalkeeper as an 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 said then.
Former Super Eagles captain, Kanu Nwankwo, also said then that he was willing to talk to Enyeama, to come out of retirement. In spite of Ikechukwu Ezenwa not doing badly, Rohr seems not to appear to trust the home-based keeper.
Kanu said Nigeria needs “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 said.
Rohr eventually settled for young former Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho as Super Eagles number one choice goaltender.
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.
During the 2008/09 season, Hapoel missed the league title by the whiskers, with Enyeama winning the ‘Player of The Year’ award. In 2009/10 Hapoel won the double, with Enyeama scoring a goal during the Cup Final. In June 2011, he moved to Lille for an undisclosed fee on a three-year contract.
At the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations, Enyeama stopped three kicks in the quarter-final penalty shootout against Tunisia, but could not prevent a loss to Cote d’ Ivoire in the semi-final. In the 2010 tournament, he was again Nigeria’s shootout hero at the quarter-final game against Zambia and scoring the winning kick himself.
Enyeama made his second FIFA World Cup appearance at the 2010 tournament in South Africa. In Nigeria’s opening match, he was named Man of the Match, producing a defiant display to restrict Argentina to a 1–0 win. Enyeama, who was playing his 56th international for the Super Eagles, made six fine saves against the two-time world champions, four of them from Lionel Messi. He was also awarded Man of the Match in Nigeria’s 2–1 loss to Greece.
At the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, Enyeama deputised for regular captain Joseph Yobo and led Nigeria to its third continental victory, keeping a clean sheet in a 1–0 defeat of Burkina Faso in the final. He was named in the Team of the Tournament as a first choice goalkeeper.
In June 2014, Enyeama was named in Nigeria’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the Super Eagles’ first and second fixtures he kept clean sheet, he conceded three goals in the last match of the first round against Argentina, a game which ended in a 3–2 defeat for Nigeria, placing them second in the group and thus qualifying them for the second round for the first time in 16 years.
His seven years stay was interspersed with a one season loan at Maccabi Tel-Aviv from 2012 to 2013.