The Nigeria national football team either as The Red Devils, Green Eagles or Super Eagles had produced great goalkeepers but Vincent Enyeama the best amongst the few.
Great goalkeepers such as Best Ogedengbe, Peter Rufai, Emmanuel Okala, Sam Ibiam, Peter Fregene, Wilfred Agbonavbare, Joe Erico, Innua Rigogo, Alloy Agu, Zion Ogunfeyimi, and Ike Shorunmu made great impact during their time in the national team.
Any of the above listed legends deserves a mention as the best the country has ever produced but in reality, only one person can wear the crown and that’s Vincent Enyeama.
Recency effect did not play any role on my decision of picking Vincent Enyeama ahead of others, his achievements and reputation put him above the few on the list.
This is not me ruling out the feats of other goalkeepers like Sam Ibiam who was Nigeria’s first international goalkeeper.
Sam Ibiam was The Red Devil’s goalie to the 1949 UK tour. During his six-year reign as Nigeria’s number one, he conceded only nine goals.
He was also the first Nigerian player to play outside the shores of Nigeria when he signed for Accra Great Olympics of Ghana in 1956.
Inua Lawal Rigogo ‘the Flying Cat’ is another goalie who deserves the crown.
According to history he only conceded four goals during his career with the national team from 1960-1969.
Emmanuel Okala ‘the Iroko in the net’ another deserving name.
He was Nigeria’s goalie when the country won the 1973 All African games.
Best Ogedengbe Nigeria’s goalie when the country won the 1980 nation’s cup.
There is Peter Fregene, who was the goalkeeper of the national team for three decades.
Fregene was in goal for Eagles from 1966-71 and again in 1982.
Peter Rufai the goalie when Nigeria won the nation’s cup in 1994 and Nigeria’s to the 1994 and 1998 world cups.
He was a member of Nigeria’s greatest ever squad, the 1994 Super Eagles.
The above listed players are great but never came close to Vincent Enyeama whom coach Festus Onigbinde also endorsed as Nigeria’s greatest goalie.
“As a coach that has worked with different generations of Super Eagles’ players, I know Nigeria has produced great goalkeepers like Best Ogedengbe, Peter Rufai, Emmanuel Okala, Patrick Okala, Peter Fregene, Wilfred Agbonavbare, Joe Erico, Innua Rigogo, Alloy Agu, Zion Ogunfeyimi and Agwo Nnaji, among others. But I think we should give the best goalkeeper so far in Nigeria to Vincent Enyeama.
“Enyeama stands out from these other goalkeepers because he performed well by being the number six best goalkeeper in Europe in 2016, which automatically made him one of the top keepers in the world at that period.
“His remarkable performance for Enyimba and the Eagles was worthy to be praised.”
Beyond winning two CAF Champions League with Enyimba in 2003, 2004 and helping Nigeria win the 2013 nation’s cup, Vincent Enyeama’s reputation for his European clubs are unmatched.
Enyeama was ranked 6th in the world in 2016 becoming the first African goalie to ranked that high.
Vincent Enyeama kept 11 consecutive clean sheets in Ligue 1 games for Lille in the 2013/14 season.
He was unbeaten for 1062 minutes and nearly match the record of 1175 minutes set by Gaëtan Huard in 1993.
Vincent Enyeama is also Nigeria’s most capped player alongside Joseph Yobo with 101 caps.
He was Nigeria’s goalie to 2004, 2006, 2008 where the Eagles won Bronze medal in all editions and in 2013 when the nation won the title.
He was also the only Nigeria goalkeeper to have played in three different world cups; 2002, 2010 and 2014.
Vincent Enyeama’s ability was also recognised by Lionel Messi who is arguably the greatest footballer ever.
So, when you consider longevity, achievements with local clubs, foreign clubs, national team and individual awards no Nigerian goalie came close to Vincent Enyeama.
If you go performances on the pitch we all were wowed by his reflex saves and timely blocks while in goal for the Super Eagles.
Who is your choice of Nigeria’s best ever goalkeeper?