Saturday, May 7, 2016 12:47 pm
By Bola Bolawole
One-time Super Eagles goal-tender and captain, Vincent Enyeama, has been voted the sixth best goalkeeper in the whole of Europe. Enyeama, who plies his trade for Lille in Ligue 1 in France, has, before now, recorded so many other firsts in his club as well as in France as a whole. These achievements, by any standard, are outstanding and show that Enyeama could rightly be said to be the most decorated goalie to have come out of this country. I am not sure of any other Nigerian goalie who has achieved as much as this man, both nationally and internationally; not even Peter Rufai. While his stint in the national team lasted, Enyeama was equally a pace-setter and will go down in history as, perhaps, the safest pair of hands the Super Eagles have had in recent times. Unfortunately, however, his time in the national team ended in a cloud of controversy.
The premature exit of Enyeama from the Super Eagles is one of the havocs done our football by erstwhile Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh. Not only was the bone of contention trivial, the way it was handled by Oliseh was amateurish and did not show maturity. So did the country lose one of its most outstanding players at a time he was at his peak and when his services were mostly needed! Because we wanted to please new coach Oliseh and avoid all excuses that he might have for eventual failure, we allowed him have his way with Enyeama, even when we knew he was in the wrong. As it had since been proven, it was, clearly, a case of sacrificing pearls for dross.
Recently, we spoke of attitudes and talents and surmised that both must occur in the right quantum before a player can excel and not cause pains. Players – and coaches – with prodigious talents but who are short in character or the right attitude often let their teams down when it matters most. So did Oliseh jump ship when it mattered most to Nigeria, with two crucial AFCON qualifiers knocking on the door! It was no surprise, then, that we eventually failed to qualify for the African Cup competition for the second consecutive time, no thanks to the bad choices that we make and the negative attitude of those at the helms.
No matter how good a player or coach is, once the attitude is not right, it is a liability and a minus. It is, in fact, a disaster waiting to happen. Witness how wrong attitude ruined Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. His arrogant display against his team’s medical staff obviously signalled a downward spiral in Chelsea’s fortunes from which “the perfect one” never recovered. He had to leave in ignominy. Since a new man took over, Chelsea had been able to redeem something out of a terribly bad season. It remains in the realm of conjecture whether the defending champions would not, by now, have become a sure candidate for relegation had Mourinho remained in the saddle.
Enyeama had been a wonderful captain of the national team who provided exceptional leadership on and off the field. His level-headedness has helped him achieve his current enviable height. It must be noted that football is a group sports. Whether we speak of a striker or goalie, the entire team contributes to the exploits of any member of the team. Without the contributions of others, it is doubtful if any single player can excel. Indeed, it has been proven that individuals excel when virtually every member of a team performs at optimal level – and when their optimal best is superior to that of their competitors.
Players with attitude seldom command the respect and support of team members. We have seen again and again how strife and dissension amongst members of the same team have torn the teams apart and impaired their performance. After Rashidi Yekini, now late, scored Nigeria’s first goal at a World Cup, reports have it that his team mates were unhappy with the selfish way he celebrated the goal. He was denied passes henceforth and that not only affected Yekini but the entire team. When esprit de corps or the feeling of camaraderie is high amongst members of a team, they perform better.
Enyeama is still being remembered – and missed – in the Super Eagles as a team player and one who organised the defence superbly. These same qualities have stood him well in France. Without a good defence and team spirit, the qualities of Enyeama would not have shown like a million stars. His team mates, therefore, have part of the honours for every accolade bestowed on the goalie. He has, rightly, saluted them as well as his trainers, without forgetting his family members. Emotional stability plays a big role in anyone’s success story. Without a stable and pleasurable home-front, it is doubtful if anyone can attain his or her utmost best.
Players with attitude seldom command the respect and support of team members. We have seen again and again how strife and dissension amongst members of the same team have torn the teams apart and impaired their performance. After Rashidi Yekini, now late, scored Nigeria’s first goal at a World Cup, reports have it that his team mates were unhappy with the selfish way he celebrated the goal. He was denied passes henceforth and that not only affected Yekini but the entire team. When esprit de corps or the feeling of camaraderie is high amongst members of a team, they perform better. Enyeama is still being remembered – and missed – in the Super Eagles as a team player and one who organised the defence superbly. These same qualities have stood him well in France
Enyeama may have retired from the national team; his exploits in Europe, however, shows that he is not tired yet. He should be encouraged to make a come-back to the Super Eagles. With his nemesis, Oliseh, out of the way, there should be nothing stopping the goalie’s return. Overtures should be made to him; and he should be magnanimous and patriotic enough to accept. Nigeria, we have been told, is greater than any individual; wearing the national colours and making the country proud should be the pride of every Nigerian. I am sure soccer-loving Nigerians will appreciate. If Enyeama returns to the Super Eagles and continues with his scintillating performance, he surely will be on the way to becoming not just a national hero but also an idol.
By the way, how does Oliseh feel wherever he is now? The latest plaudits heaped on Enyeama rubbishes the run-away gaffe in a way. Will he summon the courage to put a phone call across to the goalie to congratulate him? If he has the right attitude, he surely will; otherwise, it will be a nightmare each time he gets reminded of the exploits of a man he thought he had rubbished.