Things almost fell apart (apologies to late Chinua Achebe) at the Belgium camp of the Super Eagles, in readiness for the friendlies against Congo Democratic Republic and Cameroun, when goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama had a row with the Coach of the team, Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh, which culminated with the announcement of the former’s retirement from the national team.
Enyeama, however on Saturday, October 10, was back in Belgium from Lille to hold a closed door meeting with the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick and Vice-Presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko.
The NFF’s Instagram and Twitter accounts shared a photo taken after the meeting.
Albeit, one could be acquitted to still imagine Enyeama in a Super Eagles jersey manning the goal post, as he revealed that he is open to a return to the Super Eagles despite having called it quits with the three time African Champions that he gloriously served for 13 years, after making his debut in 2002 against Kenya at the Lagos National Stadium in Surulere.
Whether or not the 101 capped goal keeper stages a comeback, a number of eligibles have begun to stake a claim to the quite highly coveted position. While some have flattered to deceive, others have more than convinced and have indicated their willingness not to let go of the shirt without a fight.
The 29-year-old has been touted as the immediate successor for the country’s regular No.1, Vincent Enyeama, after keeping a clean sheet in the Super Eagles’ African Cup of Nations qualifier with Tanzania and in the friendly match against Niger Republic a few days later.
Sutton Coldfield-born Ikeme, who admitted to initially thinking his call-up to the Super Eagles was a ‘wind-up’, was hailed by former Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu, who said: “It is true that we did not win the match against Tanzania but we gained a son.”
Kanu’s one-time team-mate, Jay Jay Okocha said of Ikeme’s performance: “He was wonderful. We finally got the keeper we have been waiting for. We know Enyeama will not be around forever, so it is good that he was discovered now. I wish him well.”
The 6’3 Goal keeper, who plies his trade at Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club in the English Championship, has set his sights on appearing for Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
“I hope to continue from where I left off if given the chance,” he said. “All I can say is it was indeed a great feeling putting on that jersey for Nigeria and a dream come true for me.
Nigerians are keen to see how Ikeme would fare as the Super Eagles first choice shot stopper should Enyeama not return back to the team again.
Born Augustine Anamchukwu Ejide on the 8th of April, 1984, he made his debut for Nigeria against Namibia in 2001.
Ejide started his career with Gabros International before joining Étoile du Sahel. With the Tunisian club, he reached two CAF Champions League finals, losing both. In 2006, Ejide joined SC Bastia of the French Ligue 2, where he spent three years before moving to Israeli team Hapoel Petah Tikva. After the club’s relegation, Ejide moved to Hapoel Be’er Sheva in 2012, where he played until the end of the 2014/2015 season. Ejide left Be’er Sheva on a sour note, after a poor showing in the cup final while conceding 6 goals, many of which Ejide was blamed for by the local fans and media.
Apart from being the preferred choice of the then gaffer, Berti Vogts, at the 2008 African Cup of Nations held in Ghana, much is not recalled of Ejide’s heroics in the National Team as he carved a niche as a second fiddle at most competitions that the Eagles participated in, a la, AFCON 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013 and the 2002, 2010 and 2014 World Cup.
In a 2–2 friendly with Scotland, which had been marred by allegations of match fixing before kick-off, Ejide scored “one of the most bizarre own goals in international football history”, which was ruled out due to a foul on him by Grant Hanley. The own goal occurred from a corner, Ejide leapt for the ball and appeared to push it into his own goal.
Coach, Sunday Oliseh has yet to offer Ejide an invitation to the team since taking reign, even as any chance of the latter earning a call-up is hampered by the fact that he is presently unattached with any football Club.
Akpeyi was a member of the Nigeria national under-20 football team at 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in Netherlands and was in the 22-man squad before the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, but did not see action in either tournament. He was also called up to the 23-man squad for the 2014 African Nations Championship as a backup to Chigozie Agbim.
On 6 May 2014 Akpeyi was named in the 30-man provisional squad ahead of 2014 FIFA World Cup
He made his first full cap in 2015, called in for the friendly vs. South Africa as a replacement for an injured Vincent Enyeama. He saved a penalty and was lauded for his strong keeping in his Man of the Match performance.
Presently the first choice at South Africa’s Premier Soccer League club side, Chippa United, Akpeyi has been on the fringes for far too long and has gradually warmed his way into the hearts of football conscious Nigerians. It however remains to be seen if he would turn out to be a contender or a pretender to the throne.
Former Junior International, Ikechukwu Ezenwa has moved from the precipice of oblivion to the front burner on the local scene and currently ranks as one of the best hands in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Having earned call-ups to the National Team a number of times and featuring prominently with the CHAN Eagles, The Sunshine Stars of Akure’s number one goalkeeper is expected to make his imposing height, sharp reflex and un-daunting aura count, should the CHAN Eagles qualify for the African Nations Championship holding in Rwanda by 2016.
Avid viewers of the Nigeria Professional Footballer League are familiar with what Thomas is capable of doing in between the sticks, as he has proven beyond reasonable doubts that he clearly deserves a place in the National Team.
Presently a member of the Salisu Yusuf led CHAN Eagles, Thomas, when in his element, has become a terror to opposing attackers and is battling with Ikechukwu Ezenwa to become the first choice goal keeper of the CHAN Eagles.
Popularly called the Aruguo Monkey, Ejiogu began his career at the Aruguo F.C that went on to create upsets at the Challenge Cup in the early 2000’s and later played for Dolphins F.C. & Julius Berger FC. He was held in high regard by Dolphins F.C., with some considering him a hero.
The players alongside Victor Babayaro (then Director of Sport at Dolphins F.C.) allegedly collected money meant to be part payment of sign on fees as well as three months’ salary from Akwa United F.C. and then returned to Dolphins F.C. In August he was on the way to Heartland, but in September 2008 he left the team and moved to Enyimba.
He has quite underachieved when it comes to National Team call-ups, but has in his kitty, more than enough potentials to ruffle feathers based on his antecedents of the recent past at club level.
Afelokhai won the League title with Kano Pillars three times in a row in 2011/2012, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 and four in total (as won it in 2008 too) and has remained integral in the scheme of things with the SAI MAISUGIDA, as Pillars are known and is very popular amongst the teeming fans of the Kano based team.
The 2014 GLO League best goal keeper award winner has been a fringe member of the former African champions at best, despite being one of the top goalkeepers in Nigeria for the last five years and said at his last invitation to the Eagles that he has been patient enough, and wants to be the Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper.
Observers are of the opinion that he needs to feature more in the Super Eagles set-up as he has reasonably a lot to offer.
Unheralded Joshua Enaholo emerged on the scene earlier in the year after displacing Dele Alampasu and Giwa FC’s Olorunleke Ojo to become Manu Garba’s first choice at this year’s Africa Youth Championship and the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand where Nigeria reached the knockout stage.
Many will argue that the Enyimba goal keeper is in-experienced, as it was apparent when he fumbled the ball against Brazil in the Flying Eagles’ opening game at the World Cup, but the fact that he is just 19 years of age and has shown flashes of brilliance here and there, coupled with his ability to marshal the defense line when push came to shove says a lot about the potentials of the young man, needing to be groomed into a thorough-bred that will be of immense benefit to the senior national team.