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Goalkeeping Problem: Nigeria professional football league to the rescue, by Abdulrazak Iliyasu Sansani

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Goalkeeping Problem: Nigeria professional football league to the rescue, by Abdulrazak Iliyasu Sansani

With less than a month to the biggest football competition in Africa, African Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles goalkeeping woe has continued. This has been the case since the unfortunate and inopportune retirement of Carl Ikeme from a promising stint as the first choice goalkeeper of the Super Eagles, as a result of his leukemia diagnosis in 2017.

Nigeria Football is yet to find a suitable replacement, though Carl Ikeme himself, who debuted in 2015 had come to fill the vacuum created by legendary goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama.

Vincent Enyeama is a household name in African Football. His exploits, heroics, and leadership led Nigeria to its third AFCON trophy in 2013 in South Africa. He represented Nigeria in three World Cup tournaments: 2002, 2010, 2014, qualifying to the second round in 2014. With 101 caps and so many stellar performances at the grandest stage in football since he made his Super Eagles debut against Kenya on May 5, Enyeama is unarguably one of the greatest goalkeepers in Africa’s history.

However, he was unceremoniously kicked out of the Super Eagles squad and compelled to unscheduled retirement from the Super Eagles in 2015 for the way he was treated by a country he had donned its Jersey for more than a decade and safeguarded its post expertly to win some laurels.

Since Enyeama and Ikeme hanged their boots: protecting the goal of the Super Eagles has been a herculean task with little or no deliverables for Nigerians. Nigeria has been searching without finding a worthy goalkeeper for the Super Eagles in a country of over 200 million citizens.

With a large percentage of Nigerians playing professional football, and an even larger percentage following the game, which is the most followed sports in the World.

READ ALSO: Poor Performance Of Super Eagles: Coach Peseiro demands payments of allowances

Nigeria had lost many crucial matches due to poor goalkeeping most notable these matches: Nigeria versus Algeria 2019 AFCON, Nigeria versus Tunisia 2021 AFCON, Nigeria versus Ghana FIFA World Cup 2022 Playoff, and other important matches, which we fell short because of goalkeeping gaffes that many Nigeria football supporters regard as incompetence since it has been reccurring bloopers.

Despite the glaring failures of Nigeria’s dependence on goalkeepers that plied their trade as goaltenders outside Nigeria , we are yet to learn any lesson from it as our current gaffer, José Vitor dos Santos Peseiro insists on that. Nigerian football devotees today make a mincemeat out of Francis Uzoho on social media because of his costly blunders.

I believe he is not the chief one to be blamed, as he is not the one who invites himself to the national team. The buck stops at the desk of the coach who invites him to national duties and makes him the number one netminder of the Super Eagles even when he doesn’t play regularly in his club, Omonia Nicosia in the Cyprus league, in short he plays second fiddle to Fabiano Ribeiro de Freitas.

Prior to Uzoho, they were: Daniel Akpeyi, Okoye, etc, as first choice goalkeepers of the Super Eagles. Have you noticed something? They all play abroad. Mind you, I do not have anything against playing abroad. In fact, most of our best players play there and I think other goalkeepers that have not been tested there should be invited too. But I am absolutely against the idea that only players playing abroad are good enough for the national team. Why would anyone harbour this notion? Why not give the home based goaltenders a chance? I do not mean calling them to just warm our bench. No, invite them and give them matches and then gauge their performances.

As I was about to round off writing this piece, I was informed that the coach of the Super Eagles, is considering other goalkeepers on the eve of the African Cup of Nations, against his earlier stance on the goalkeeping discord at the Super Eagles. This is the way forward.

The Super Eagles scouts should do a thorough job in the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, they will find some wonderful goalies for the Super Eagles some in unexpected places playing at a very low tier of Nigeria Football. To save time, on the verge of the AFCON we should concentrate on the Nigeria Professional Football League. Give the goalkeepers good enough to keep for the most populous black nation on earth a level playing field and our league will prove to be equal to the task by salvaging the country from its goalkeeping nightmare. Definitely, we have great netminders in our league.

Abdulrazak Iliyasu Sansani is a former Sports programme Presenter and producer at Haske TV, Jalingo, Taraba State.

 

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