Who Is The Eagles’ Greatest Goalkeeper In 60 years?

Who Is The Eagles’ Greatest Goalkeeper In 60 years?

Culled from Operanewsapp.com

I spent the whole of today in search of opinions on who the greatest goalkeeper in the history of Nigerian football since Independence in 1960 is.

Mega Millions Naija

What a day it turned out to be….working with my phone. It reminded me of Owolabi Ilori, the late sports editor of the Punch newspaper who covered the entire 1980 Moscow Olympic Games from his hotel room in Moscow using a telephone.

His reports brought down the structures of the original National Sports Commission and started its southward dive into the mess that eventually consumed Nigerian sports from which they have not fully recovered, 40 years after.

The telephone is a very powerful tool. It was on full duty today connecting me with some of the most unlikely people you can imagine that have been quietly following my reports and have decided to add their voices to the current conversation.

Also Read: The Greatest Captain In Nigeria’s Football History!

Senior Pastors, top military brass, police officers, politicians (big and small), journalists, ex-international footballers, and ordinary football lovers, amongst others, have all joined our sentimental party down memory lane to break the monotony and frustrations of the ongoing necessary but tough country-wide lockdown.

Who remembers the first ‘Professor’ in Nigerian football? He was not an academic professor. He was a coach, but was so good that at a particular period in his coaching career those who had the privilege of being coached by him when he was invited to join Coach Father Tiko in the Green Eagles camp at the campus of the University of Ife in Ile Ife, preparatory to the Montreal Olympic Games of 1976, had to ‘crown’ him a ‘Professor’.

He was the most erudite and articulate coach in Nigerian football that I ever met. I have no idea what his academic qualifications were, but his team talks, his analysis of games and players, and his mastery of the English language, were truly exceptional.

When he unleashed his team on Nigerian football it 1978, the team, Bendel Insurance FC of Benin, truncated the almost 8 years’ dominance of Rangers International and Shooting Stars in Nigerian football. The team deservedly climbed the ladder of ‘best team in Nigeria’ in that year. No one doubted that that Bendel Insurance team, with 10 out of 11 of the players invited to the national team, was the product of a very fertile coaching mind.

Enough credit and recognition have not been given to him till now even at 86. Time to honour him is fast running out.

I called him this morning after decades of trying to locate where he had been hibernating. To my pleasant surprise, he had not lost any of his sharpness of mind and language. Our conversation was so refreshing. I may reproduce it soon for the public to enjoy. I am referring, of course, to ‘Professor’ Alabi Aissien. He tutored late Shuaibu Amodu to become the great coach that he was.

Alabi Aissien – former international Coach

Vincent Enyeamathere is no element of luck that follows many goalkeepers in Vincent’s case. He is good and dependable. He knows how to hold his position in goal during matches, and kept developing it throughout his career, getting better all the time.

Admiral J. Ayinla – Former Naval Chief of Staff

Vincent Enyeama. I throw my hat in for Okala, Rufai and Vincent, each a great and deserving goalkeeper of his era. Give them 2 numbers each from 1 to 6, and throw a dice, I will be comfortable with the outcome. But, ok, I pick Vincent Enyeama.

Aghanya ibezimako – former Police Commissioner.

Emmanuel Okala. He is simply the best because his errors were few and his saves on one-on-one situations outnumbered those of the others put together. Most of his saves were critical, often leading to his team winning a match.


Emmanuel Okala

Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye – administrator

Peter Rufai. His accumulation of international laurels is a reflection of his quality. He comes ahead of all others. He is always reliable in goal.

Toyin Obitoye – journalist

Vincent Enyeama. In a match against Messi when the Argentine genius was at his very best, at the World Cup of 2010 in South Africa, Vincent confronted the best player in the world and denied him finding the back of his net. He was so good on the night that he was nominated (as well as in a second match too) as Man of the Match! 4 years later in 2014, at the World Cup again, even when the Eagles lost to France, he was rated one of the best in the championship. Playing at such levels and earning such accolades speak volumes.

Samson Siasia – coach/ex-international player.

Peter Rufai, Of course. His showmanship was a reflection of his confidence and ability. With every step forward from goal, he was flying in the air stopping goals. He took this to win the African Cup of Nations and to the 1994 World Cup. He was simply the best.

Kadiri Ikhana – coach/ex-international player.

Best Ogedegbe. He is like a rubber ball. When everything failed in a team he was always there to save the team and the situation. He did it over and over again, and won several victories for his team through his dramatic and unbelievable saves.


Best Ogedegbe

Dahiru Sadi – ex-international player

Vincent Enyeama. He had too many qualities of a great goalkeeper- very calm in the net, never ruffled, never quarreled with his defenders, always controlling and initiating attacks with his kicks and throws. a very disciplined and highly technical goalie.

Kola Taiwo (SKT) – Coach/ex-international player

Inua Lawal Rigogo. The only goalkeeper that could fly and suspend in the air. Very acrobatic. His training was exceptional, always doing more than the rest and utilizing it in matches. Was very difficult to beat him. He was technically very sound. A good goalkeeper indeed.

Tony Nnachetta – Administrator

Emmanuel Okala. I saw him with my two eyes actually diving and changing direction in mid-air like a bird, from one direction to another, in a successful effort to stop a goal bound shot from Johnny Nwadioha of Vasco Dagama in Enugu. Jonathan Ogufere was a witness of that unforgettable display. That is it for me. I have never seen anything quite like it. So, there has never been anyone like him.

Ituah Ighodalo – Pastor.

Peter Fregene. Hard to choose between Inua Rigogo and Fregene. Saw them both. Stationary Stores was my team with Muyiwa Oshode, Opone, Anieke, etc.But, I think I give it to Fregene.

Femi Aluko – politician

Vincent Enyeama, For his longevity and leadership qualities. As a goalkeeper, he captained the National team and distinguished himself against the best in the world. Gave Messi a run for his money at the World Cup. Played for top teams in the French league. He won the Africa Champions Club cup twice with Enyimba. Won the Cup of Nations in 2013. With Joseph Yobo, they are the only two with over 100 national caps each. This signifies supreme fitness and discipline.

Satish Sekar – British Journalist

Vincent Enyeama. He won AFCON and was also a great leader on the pitch. He had longevity in his career. Of the three Nigerian AFCON winning squads, the 2013 one needed him to head its spine more than the other two. He delivered.

Other views and opinions are still rolling in. They are welcome.

Segun Odegbami

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  • Vincent no joo

  • Chima E Samuels 3 years ago

    Vincent from day 1 to 100+ I never saw him had a bad game like what we have today.

  • Ayphillydegreat 3 years ago

    I loved Peter Rufai as a kid, his showmanship and flamboyance was exceptional. However, I have to give it to the great Vincent Enyeama. He was the main reason we won that AFCON in 2013. Rufai had a luxury of great defenders in Uche Okechukwu, Stephen Keshi and Chidi Nwanu. Enyeama never had that, Yobo was the only high profile defender he played with and a young Omeruo. The rest are mediocres at best. Definitely Vincent Enyeama is Nigeria’s greatest ever goalie.

  • Bomboy 3 years ago

    Vincent Enyeama, Peter Rufai, Best Ogedegbe. In that order.

  • Edoman 3 years ago

    Vincent Enyeama, Peter Rufal, Okala, Best Ogedegbe. in that order. Imo.

  • Pompei 3 years ago

    “I saw him with my two eyes actually diving and changing direction in mid-air like a bird, from one direction to another, in a successful effort to stop a goal bound shot”

    Hmmmm. I heard this about Emmanuel Okala a while ago, and dismissed it as embellishment. How can a human being dive in one direction, and then in mid air, change and dive in the other direction? However, to hear it again today, especially from someone who claims to have been an eye withness, makes me wonder…..could it possibly be true? If it is true, that would have been absolutely incredible to see. Wish we had it recorded on some form of media somewhere.

    To the question of Nigeria’s greatest ever goalkeeper, for me it is down to these four gentlemen –

    Emmanuel Okala
    Vincent Enyeama
    Peter Rufai
    Best Ogedengbe

    This list is not presented in order. All four are just too close to call, in my opinion.

    I have to admit that there are many others I never had the privilege to see. I heard of Peter Fregene, but never saw him. I’m hearing of Inua Rigogo for the first time today. With no records anywhere to watch these guys, there is no way to objectively assess them. So, I can only comment on those who I watched regularly (Rufai and Enyeama), and those whose tapes are available (Okala, Ogedengbe).

  • The writer himself had already answered the question by placing Enyeama in the biggest picture.
    The debate should be on whom to be placed behind him. Enyeama went to 3 world cups and the performances were very OK… supposed to be 4 but No thanks to Oliseh. The person close to him when it comes to world cup appearance Jones after second trial in 1998 (Rufai)..No thanks to Old Age though. In Enyeama, we have Goal keeper that was once Nominated to be African Best, a Nigerian goal keeper with Champions league and Europa league goals…….let’s talk about the second best pls.

  • O'billy Pam-Pam 3 years ago

    I don’t think it is fair to judge players of different generations.Like the occasional “who is the greatest player in the world” topic of discussions, it is not fair to those foundation builders in football. The game was so rugged in the 50s,60s and 70s that I think players of this generation will find it very difficult to play those era.
    Ask Zico what he faced in the hands of the Italians in “82. He was so man marked/handled that the commentator noted once that he dribbled his marked and said “for once skill is able to prevail against rough play.
    So in this case who do we choose? Okala? Ogedegbe? Rufai or Onyeama? Difficult I think,unfair because they are all great,as well as others.

  • presh 3 years ago

    Peter Rufia all day for me, those who watched Rufia in his hey days not about the kind of defenders he got, if you know Rufia you know your post is secured.

  • I sincerely think that the issue of who ranks as the best Nigerian goalkeeper of all times is not even open for debate at all. Vincent Enyeama is not just the best goalie in the history of Nigerian football but he is arguably the best goalkeeper to have ever emerged from the black continent. Vincent Enyeama was even rated as one of the best 50 goal keepers in the world at a time. I’ve been following his career since when he was still at Enyimba FC. He’s got impressive longevity, he’s got accolades to show for his brilliant performances for both country and clubs. I’m sure if you ask some of the legendary goalkeepers on the list, they won’t think otherwise. Abeg, bone tori, Vincent the son of Enyeama was a phenomenon. No disrespect to the other legends on the list. Let’s discuss the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best Nigerian goalkeepers of all times

  • Enyeama Records

    1. 2x Afoty for African based 2003/04
    2. 1 caf cl. Best player 2004
    3. 2x caf.cl. best keeper 2003/04
    4. 2x Best Keeper Afcon 2004 & 2013
    5. Best worldcup save 2002,2010 & 2014
    6. Afcon winner 2013
    7. Afoty nominee top 5 and top 3
    8. Caf Cl. 2x winner
    9. Best keeper in Europe 2011/12 with around 15 cleansheets
    10. Multiple career goals club/Country
    11. Club /Country Set-piece specialist
    12. Multiple Apearance Uefa cl. Europa League, Fifa wc & Afcon
    13. French league/cup
    14. Isreal league / cup multiple times
    15. Best keeper in France in his prime
    16. Finally MOST CAPPED SUPER EAGLE for now
    Simply the best and the greatest!!!

    • Dr. Drey 3 years ago

      ….pls don’t forget to add “…one-time MVP of the Israeli premier league…”
      I can’t recall the exact season now…but it has to be 1 or 2 seasons before he moved to France.

      Vincent is simply the greatest. It’s unfortunate he was kicked out of the national team in such an undignifying manner.

      • My brother Vince was simply the Best and is The Greatest of ’em all

        • Dr. Drey 3 years ago

          Ranking Vincent within the Nigerian context is an insult. He ranks high up there among the all time greats of Africa….the Badou Zakis, Thomas Nkonos, Alain Gouamenes and Essam Elhadarys of this world. Mention 5 all time African greats and Enyeama’s name will be conspicuously present amongst them.
          I say Vincent’s exit still dey pain me reach bone till today.

  • KangA 3 years ago

    Vincent Enyeama, simply the best.  

  • Pompei 3 years ago

    I remember Badou Zaki, legendary Moroccan goalkeeper. His exploits in the 1986 world cup in particular were simply incredible. Extraordinary reflexes and confidence.
    However, I also sincerely believe that the likes of Okala, Ogedegbe, and Rufai, AT THEIR BEST, were just as good as Zaki.
    So, I submit that the choice of the greatest Nigerian goalkeeper ever is not that easy!
    Of course, Enyeama achieved more, had more opportunities (which he earned, of course), and was recognized more. However, if you placed any of Okala, Ogedegbe and Rufai, AT THEIR BEST, in Enyeama’s shoes, they would have performed as well as he did. Just as I also believe Muda Lawal, for example, is a player who could have held his own had he played in the 1990s, or even in the last decade. Muda was a box to box, goal-scoring, play-making, defensively capable midfielder, a player way ahead of his time. To say he is not in the same class as some of our more famous box to box midfielders would be wrong. Using this same logic, to say Okala, Ogedegbe, and Rufai are not in the same class as Enyeama just because he achieved much more than they did, would be wrong, in my fallible opinion.

  • UwakmfonAbasi 3 years ago

    no mention of the name of the goal keeper, who deputize for Rufai in his days and also took over from him.He may not be the best but his name should be in the list of those contending for the best gaolkeeper in Nigeria. He tried for Nigeria. I have forgotten his name