Ikechukwu Ezenwa: A throwback to the last NPFL based Super first choice goalkepeer
For NPFL based goalkeepers, only Vincent Enyeama and Ikechukwu Ezenwa in the last two decades have been trusted with a Super Eagles starting role in a competitive game.
Just like his role model Vincent Enyeama did during his days at Enyimba International FC, Ikechukwu Ezenwa then of Ifeanyi Ubah FC was trusted with the opportunity to man the Super Eagles posts for crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification games.
His return of two clean sheets helped Nigeria to two wins two draws and no defeat to seamlessly secure World Cup qualification.
TRUSTED FOR KEY 2018 WORLD CUP QUALIFICATION GAMES
Nigeria was to face Cameroon in a crucial two-legged 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification in September 2017.
As replacement for first choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme who was ruled out after being diagnosed with leukaemia in July 2017, Coach Rohr had invited Daniel Akpeyi for the games.
Akpeyi picked up an injury that ruled him out of the games thus paving the way for Ezenwa who was previously a backup.
“I have been in this team for two years now, and I have understudied Carl Ikeme and Daniel Akpeyi so I am ready to give my best to help us win on Friday.”,” Ezenwa said after Rohr confirmed he will start vs Cameroon in Uyo on September 1, 2017.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles defeated the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon 4-0 in the first leg in Uyo, Ezenwa emerging unscathed vs the reigning African champions at the time.
Goals from Odion Ighalo, Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho were enough for Nigeria to thrash fierce rivals Cameroon.
Ezenwa was again between the sticks for the 2nd leg in Yaounde few days later. The goalkepeer again gave a good account of himself as the Eagles held the Lions to a 1-1 draw in their own den.
Those results shot Nigeria to 10 points in a group that also had Algeria and Zambia.
Ezenwa retained first choice status for the remaining two qualification games vs Zambia and Algeria . The Eagles secured positive results in both games to seal a 2018 FIFA World Cup ticket.
By this time, Ezenwa was a sure bet to get on the flight to Russia but his spot as first choice goalkeeper was far from settled.
ROHR NOT CONVINCED
Nigeria did not lose any of the four World Cup qualification games with Ezenwa between the posts but manager Genot Rohr was not convinced the NPFL based shot-stopper was the man for the job in Russia.
Akpeyi recovered from injury to feature in the world cup preparations before Francis Uzoho was invited to the World Cup bound team.
19-year old Uzoho did displace Akpeyi and Ezenwa to become Nigeria’s first choice goalkeeper for the tournament in Russia.
WHERE IS IKECHUKWU EZENWA
After the World Cup in Russia, Ezenwa remained a part of the Eagles set-up until his inconsistent club performances led to the invitation of current Enyimba International FC skipper John Noble.
From enduring a difficult season with money-short Heartland FC to joining Katsina United FC in 2019, Ikechukwu Ezenwa now 34 has gone off the spotlight.
Clubless at the moment, if Ezenwa decides to call time on his playing career , his 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification exploits will be a key period in his career he will always be proud of.
Since then, no other Nigeria Premier League goalkepeer has been lucky to grace the first team posts for a competitive game.
John Noble, Ojo Olorunleke and Adewale Adeyinka have seperately received invitations to the Eagles team without the opportunity to start games.