Vincent Enyeama: Exit of A National Icon? By Arc Nya-Etok Ezekiel

imageIn November of last year, Vincent Enyeama, the then Nigeria’s No1 Goalkeeper and Captain, was short listed as one of the 5 finalists for the BBC African Footballer Of The Year Award. It was a rare feat to have a goalkeeper on such a list.
I came to this forum to solicit support for him. My post was titled “Vote For ENYEAMA, Vincent Inem,–Talented, Humble, God-Fearing”
The reaction was overwhelming. The post was viewed by over 400,000 people. About 2,300 people “Liked” it, while over 1000 people posted superlative comments in his support.
Enyeama personally went through ALL the comments, and gave me a call that was very emotional. ‘Chairman”, he said, “For the love that my people have for me, I will do anything to make Nigerians proud and happy…”
Fast forward—-
Not long ago, there was controversy over his failing to appear for a national call up. Unknown to many, he had just lost his mother to whom he was very attached. The burial was done this last Saturday.
Within hours after the burial, he took the next available flight to meet his team mates in Belgium.
What followed was very sad. First, not withstanding that his national coach was not by his side at the burial, -which he very well understood, what was really shocking was the total absence of any form of sympathy. Then came the bombshell, as the team got together for the usual coach briefing, what came was not condolences to a mate that has just buried his mom, but a stripping of that same person of the captainship without the least of prior confiding.
When Vincent, in utter shock and confusion sought to know if he had done anything wrong or if it was simply a change of administration which the coach was entitled to. Unfortunately the coach would have none of that and ordered him to sit down. As the longest serving player, he believed he could be treated with a little more consideration or respect.
Not done, the coach in the next meeting, named his five key players that he would work with. Enyeama was visibly ignored. When asked, he said he didn’t know “any Enyeama”, and was not interested in knowing whoever he was.
It was at this point that Enyeama, having all considered, thought it wise to honorably resign from the national team.
I have had very long discussions on phone with him from yesterday to some hours back. I have also tried very hard to dissuade him from calling it quits as Nigerians have shown him som much love.
BUT for a man that is considered as one of the best goalkeepers globally, to be seen as the third choice keeper, is to humiliate him. This will not auger well for his professional career.
My main concern now is what is informing our decisions on national assignment. I do not for a moment believe that there is anyone that we cannot do without. I also very much believe that we need to put out our very best if we want to go far in any competition. If Enyeama who has been seen by Nigerians as being very level headed and humble, can be treated this way, how will other players feel? Is this the best way to honor our longest serving player? Is it not the job of a coach to MANAGE his players? Is this the best way to MANAGE a man that has just buried his mother? How are the other players feeling?
Enyeama has been an inspiration in levelheadedness and humility, to the Nigerian youths. The Governor of his state (Akwa Ibom State), Mr Emmanuel Udom, said this much when he personally, with his Deputy and almost the whole state EXCO, went for the mother’s burial.
Feelers that I have received is that even the players who do not agree with Enyeama, are unanimous that he does not deserve the treatment that he has received from the coach. As he told me, “the coach obviously hates even the very sight of me. To try to stay back will be to create the sort of spirit in the camp that will not be okay for the team. I love my country and if it takes my taking the fall for the nation to have a united team, it is a price I am willing to pay for our country” Wow!!!
Fellow Nigerians, should Enyeama, after these years of service, be disgraced and frustrated to the national team this way? Is it ok?

Arc NYA-ETOK, Ezekiel.

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