FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiThursday, January 4, 2018
[email protected]
Belgium

TIME TO TAKE THE SOCCER WORLD BY STORM! (7)

Continued from Part 6

THE PLAYERS: THE GOALKEEPER

et me start by wishing my numerous great and illustrious readers a fantastic 2018; may the good Lord grant our hearts' desires this year and always. Amen!!!!!!!

The goalkeeper is the last line of defence. In Belgian local soccer parlance, he is the last door to a team's most cherished place - the goal.

It is thus very important that the guardian of this very vital area of a team should be good; if possible very good! A team with a weak goalkeeper, has a very big problem. Any decent tactician from the opposing team will gladly tell his players to try to take advantage of this weakness.

Unfortunately for the Super Eagles, at this point in time due to unforeseen circumstances, the Super Eagles are somewhat "thin" in this very vital area of the team. The Super Eagles with six months to the World cup, apparently, do not have reliable goalkeepers with which to prosecute the world cup, in the apparent absence of goalkeeper Carl "fantabulous" Ikeme and Vincent Enyeama.

The critical question is: have the Super Eagles had it so bad in that vital area of the team over the years? The answer is clearly no! A country that has produced goalkeepers like: Inuwa Rigogo, Eyo Essien, Cyril Okosieme, Zion Ogunfeyinmi, Emmanuel Okala, alias "Man Mountain", Joe Eric, Best Ogedegbe, Agwo Nnaji, Israel Anuna, Peter Fregene, alias "Apo", Peter Rufai, Raymond king, Aloy Agu, Wilfred Agbonivbare, Christian Obi, Willy Okpara, alias "the cat", Imama Amamakpabo, Ike Shorunmu, and of course Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide and Dele Aiyenugba of recent memory, cannot be said to be short on talent in this very vital area.

What is the problem with this present set of Super Eagles, in this vital area? Mee thinks the problem has to do with a combination of unfortunate circumstances and apparent lack of exposure on the part of the goalkeepers in the present Super Eagles. The combined absences of Vincent Enyeama and Carl Ikeme have not been favourable to the team. Added to this factor, the available goalkeepers of the team, apparently, lack the necessary experience and exposure needed for a competition of the magnitude of the World cup.

Should Nigerians despair, as a consequence of this present Super Eagles' goalkeeping reality? The answer in my considered opinion is a capital - NO! Nigerians have a way of surmounting problems. Problems sometimes come to man; mee thinks the good Lord blesses Nigerians with problem-solving ability! Nigerians have a way of wriggling out of predicaments. The goalkeeping area of the Super Eagles is no exception. A number of examples will prove this point :

A young and inexperienced goalkeeper Emmanuel Okala, was called upon, to man the posts for Nigeria, in the absence of the first choice goalkeeper, at the 2nd All African games in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1973, and he rose up to the occasion and helped Nigeria win the soccer gold ;

A young goalkeeper Best Ogedegbe was called upon to be the Super Eagles' first choice goalkeeper at the 1980 Nations' cup competition, he rose up to the occasion and helped Nigeria win the tournament;

After the disbandment of the Super Eagles in 1982, a young goalkeeper Peter Rufai, was called upon to be the new Super Eagles' first choice keeper, he didn't disappoint;

At the 1984 Nations' cup final match, the young and inexperienced goalkeeper Patrick Okala, who hitherto was on the bench during the course of the tournament, was suddenly called upon to replace goalkeeper Peter Rufai, he didn't show any nerves and put up a good performance;

At the 1985 under -20 world cup tournament in the then USSR, the hitherto reserve goalkeeper: Christian Obi, was called upon to replace the injured first choice keeper: Aloy Agu, in the crucial semi-final clash against the host country, he put up a very creditable performance. He not only didn't concede a goal during the course of the match, but saved about two vital penalty kicks of the Russians, during the penalty shoot-out series, to help Nigeria win the Bronze medal of that tournament;

At the semi-final match of the 2002 Nations' cup tournament in Mali, an unknown goalkeeper Akanji, was unexpectedly called upon to take the place of the injured first choice keeper: Ike Shorunmu, during the course of the match, and he did quite well;

At the 2002 World cup tournament in Japan and South-Korea, an inexperienced and "rookie" goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama ,was called upon to replace the more experienced goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu, in the vital last game against England. Some Nigerian officials thought Coach Onigbinde was "crazy" to have chosen for such a young goalkeeper, instead of the more experienced goalkeeper, in what was clearly a case of replacement by "choice", considering the fact the more experienced keeper was available for selection. Goalkeeper Enyeama didn't disappoint, and helped Nigeria get the vital point, in a goalless draw with England! He subsequently launched a great goalkeeping career.

The point to be made here, is that while one wishes for the quick recovery and possible returns of goalkeepers Carl Ikeme and Vincent Enyeama; our present available goalkeepers, though, not yet world class, will be expected and can rise up to the occasion given the intrinsic Nigerian "never -say -die mentality! "

TO BE CONTINUED!

Continued from Part 6

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