By Lolade Adewuyi | Chief Editor
What an amazing year that Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has had. From being almost dropped to the bench ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations in January, the Lille goalkeeper has now cemented his spot for the World Cup and should be in goal in Brazil barring any freak accidents.
When the Goal Nigeria Player of the Year nominees was listed last year, Enyeama did not make the cut. The team of editors and writers at Goal did not consider him among the five best players in the country. Like many football awards, we were typically taken in by the prowess of our outfield players and attackers and arrived at the list that included Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa, John Utaka, Gabriel Reuben and John Obi Mikel.
However, with his feat in goal for Nigeria and his club this year, any awards committee that ignores (or has ignored) Enyeama in its nomination process is not worth its salt. The 31-year-old, therefore, makes the shortlist of the Goal Nigeria Player of the Year with high marks this term.
Having led the Super Eagles to winning the AFCON in February, Enyeama has become an undisputed candidate for the highest accolades. Playing behind a young Nigerian central defensive pair of Godfrey Oboabona and Kenneth Omeruo in the absence of captain Joseph Yobo, Enyeama brought his experience to bear and kept the Super Eagles flying high till the final.
I remember vividly how he saved Yaya Toure’s dreaded volley in that eventful quarter final in Rustenburg when almost everyone had given up on the team. Apart from Sunday Mba’s goal, it was Enyeama who gave belief to the squad from behind and kept them safe to be able to sail above and beyond the Elephants.
Who can forget his celebration after the final whistle inside Soweto’s SoccerCity as he joyously attempted to carry the centre referee on his shoulder after that hard-fought victory over Burkina Faso? Surely, he played a mighty big part in our boys’ triumph in Mzansi.
Mr Reliable | Enyeama has proven to be Lille's strong man
He also led Nigeria, as stand-in captain, to their fifth World Cup playing a yeoman’s role in the chase of the ticket. He conceded four goals in eight matches as the Super Eagles made their way to Brazil, even though one or two of them were down to his poor judgment.
At club side Lille, the Nigerian number one is fast becoming a legend after going 11 straight games without conceding a goal for Les Dogues. He is now just 231 minutes away from reaching the French record held by Gaetan Huard.
Game after game, Enyeama is shutting out defences in France unlike what any other Nigerian goalkeeper before him has done on the European stage. Good wine gets better with age, and as the years wear on, Enyeama keeps getting better, his judgment and agility improving.
Only in his prime as goalkeepers tend to play into the late 30s, the Cat, as fondly called by friends and fans, will be expected to take his form to Brazil next summer. Like I stated earlier, barring any freak injuries or loss of form, the former Enyimba man is expected to re-enact his feat of 2010 where he shut out Lionel Messi with four great saves in the Super Eagles opening game. However, he still needs to improve in his judgment of corner kicks.
Like many others, I am keen to continue watching the ‘Vincent Enyeama Show’ as he persists in racking up the records. And hopefully he can win the fans’ votes for this year’s Goal Nigeria Player of the Year award.