Rufai: I Have Solution to Nigeria’s Goalkeeper’s Problem

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Peter Rufai
Peter Rufai

Duro Ikhazuagbe

As Nigeria continues to grapple with getting a quality goalkeeper for the senior national team, the Super Eagles, ex-international Peter Rufai has insisted that he has solution to the festering problem.

Yesterday, Franco-German handler of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, invited 23 players for the international friendly with Ukraine without the inclusion of South Africa-based Daniel Akpeyi who was the country’s Number 1 goalkeeper to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The Kaiser Chief goalkeeper reclaimed the shirt from Francis Uzoho who was between the sticks for Eagles at the World Cup in Russia where Nigeria failed to make it out of the group stage.

But for the leukaemia that ended Carl Ikeme’s career after starting the 2018 World Cup qualifiers brilliantly in Ndola, Zambia, Ikechukwu Ezenwa would not have had the opportunity of becoming the first choice goalkeeper for the rest of the matches en-route the Mundial.

Apart from Ikeme whose quality measured close to Vincent Enyeama who vacated the post after an illustrious career, all other three goalkeepers have never really lived up to the quality of the pre-Ikeme era.

Nigerians now resort to prayers each time any of the current three goalkeepers are between the sticks. Poor goalkeeping by Akpeyi stopped Nigeria from reaching the final of Egypt 2019.

But yesterday, Rufai, who remains one of the country’s best goalkeepers to date, told THISDAY that this problem remains because those in charge of the country’s football at both NFF and state FAs have ignored his thesis on how to solve the matter.

“For me it remains an embarrassment that a country of over 170 million people are running from pillar to pole and are unable to get just one quality goalkeeper that can be called world-class.

“Couple of years back when this problem started, I offered to help and even gave my proposal to the League Management Company and the NFF. It was to also involve state FAs so that when fully implemented, goalkeeping will no longer be problem of the country any more. As I speak with you, that proposal remains on the shelf,” revealed Rufai fondly called Dodo Mayana in his period with the senior national team.

He insisted that there was little Rohr could do for the national team so long as there is no “what we can call a Nigerian playing policy in place.”

In Rufai’s words: “when there is a policy in place, successive coaches or even players coming from anywhere around the world will have to adjust to the Nigerian policy. This is the only way we can return to the top where our football ought to belong.”

If Germany-based Fortuna Dusseldorf goalkeeper, Emil Maduka Okoye, who Rohr invited for first time for the friendly with Ukraine gets his first cap on September 10, he will become the fifth goalkeeper to be tried since Enyeama walked away from the Super Eagles.