After a really embarrassing row with Nigeria’s first team coach, Vincent Enyeama abruptly cut short his international career, putting an end to a 13 year romance that had been riddled with so many highs and a few lows.
The 33 year old’s retirement, though premature and provoked, is certain to create a huge hole in the Super Eagles defense line.
But how big are the shoes left behind by the Lille goaltender?
Since making his debut against Kenya as a wide-eyed 20 year old in 2002 and following his impressive display against England at that summer’s World Cup, Enyeama has been Nigeria’s first choice between the sticks.
His talent was unmistakeable as he helped Enyimba FC to two consecutive CAF Champions League titles before making the move to Europe.
The heartbreak brought by those near-misses was finally transformed to joyous jubilations when Enyeama skippered the Super Eagles to AFCON glory in 2013.
2 World Cups and 101 appearances after, Vincent Enyeama had not only sealed his legend as the player with the most games for Nigeria but the greatest goalkeeper ever to wear the Green and White.
Simply put, Enyeama is greater than the Okallas, the Agus, the Rufais that you heard about when growing up.
It’s really big shoes for Carl Ikeme to even attempt to try on.
But attempt he will. The new national team manager favours him, and his desire to turn out for Nigeria despite being born in England means he deserves his chance.
Now nearing 30 and having played all his league football in the lower English divisions, it’s almost impossible to replicate Enyeama’s feat with Nigeria.
Talent-wise the 6ft 3in Ikeme is not a lesser man but having received his first call up to the Eagles in 2007, he didn’t make his international debut until some eight years later.
There are a bunch of homegrown keepers waiting in the wings but Ikeme’s experience puts him ahead of the queue.