By Nurudeen Obalola:
There is absolutely no doubt that Vincent Enyeama is one of Nigeria’s best goalkeepers ever. That is if he is not the best.
He has won Nigeria tough games basically on his won, rescued the Super Eagles from the brink of disgrace on several occasions, and won pretty much everything a Nigerian player can hope to achieve on the international stage.
At this moment, no goalkeeper from the whole of Africa comes close to the Lille star, and Nigerians should be proud to call him their won.
But there comes a time in a man’s life when he has to take a tough decision and see it through.
Unfortunately, now is that time for the incredibly talented Enyeama to quit the Super Eagles.
Of course, considering his glittering career and his commitment to the Nigeria cause, Enyeama should exit in a blaze of glory, carried shoulder high by adoring admirers.
After 13 wonderful years and a record 101 caps, Enyeama should be celebrated, sent off with fanfare.
After all he did for the Super Eagles, Enyeama should not be retiring under a cloud, after an ugly row with the coach, Sunday Oliseh.
But his retirement might just the best thing to come out of all the ugliness of the past few days.
Even as the Nigeria Football Federation is making moves to reconcile Enyeama and Oliseh, a line should be drawn on how far this peace moves go.
Enyeama MUST stay away from the team so long as Oliseh remains Super Eagles head coach.
You don’t go back to work in a company after insulting and assaulting the CEO and resigning in anger. Not if that CEO is still at the company.
It doesn’t matter if you had a case or not, the point is you can no longer work with that same boss.
While Enyeama didn’t exactly insult or assault Oliseh, it is obvious their relationship is damaged beyond repair. They can NEVER work together again. At least not in the Super Eagles.
The major issue from their confrontation is that it was a clash of two massive egos. And one of them had to leave. Something had to give.
The Super Eagles ship can have only one captain. That captain has to be Oliseh, not Enyeama.
Several points have to be considered when proposing a reversal of Enyeama’s retirement.
First, would he accept Ahmed Musa as the captain over himself? By all accounts, the appointment of Musa as captain was the catalyst of the whole sad episode.
Enyeama was used to being captain and he was not happy he was removed, so he is not likely to be comfortable playing under Musa as the skipper.
And it is obvious Oliseh will not change his mind and re-appoint Enyeama as captain. If Oliseh was forced to do that, how would Musa feel? Wouldn’t Oliseh appear to be a weakling who had no authority over his own team?
Second, Oliseh appears to have taken to Carl Ikeme as his first choice goalkeeper, and the Wolves player has been spotless so far. Would he drop Ikeme for Enyeama? If he didn’t, would Enyeama come out of retirement only to sit on the bench for a keeper he knows he is clearly better than?
Third, would Oliseh be able to reprimand Enyeama again without the keeper feeling he is being victimised for his past misdemeanour? Would Enyeama be able to raise genuine concerns without Oliseh feeling the keeper is just being naughty?
Fourth, if Enyeama were to return, would Oliseh trust him not to sabotage the team? There have been several occasions where Nigerian players have been suspected to have forced coaches out by not going full throttle at games, so that they can lose and get the coaches sacked.
This probably happened when Oliseh was playing and was alleged to be a key member of a powerful player ring. So, would he trust Enyeama not to lead a revolt against him?
The truth is, having Enyeama back would affect the team’s fragile balance.
Oliseh has apparently settled for Musa as his captain because the CSKA Moscow man will not question his authority, and the other players should fall in line and follow their captain’s example.
Oliseh himself was a fiery captain who fell out with the authorities and even the media, and he was seen as arrogant and confrontational.
Obviously, he knows how difficult it is to handle such a captain, and he probably suspects Enyeama is like himself.
Enyeama and Oliseh are two men who have more similarities than differences, and it is human nature for opposites to attract. These two are too much alike and divorce seems to be the best option.
Talking about their clash is a bit of a minefield that one has to tiptoe around. It has divided Nigerians and some have very strong opinions about who they support. There is no middleground with some on this matter, you’re either for one or against the other.
No matter how you approach it, even when you have no horse in this race, you will be accused of bias.
But the truth must be told.
Oliseh and Enyeama are wrong. Neither of them is blameless.
As the boss, Oliseh has every right to appoint his own captain, but he could have handled the situation a bit better.
Enyeama also has a right to have issues with being removed as captain. But he went about it the wrong way.
However, it is understandable that both men were in an emotional state at that point in time on Tuesday night. Still, they could have been more mature about it.
Enyeama had just buried his mother so he was not in the best frame of mind.
Oliseh, on the other hand, was severely short-handed, with seven players unable to join his preparations for the DR Congo friendly. He is a man under enormous pressure and every little disruption to his plans could bring out the worst in him. If you have ever worked under pressure before and you have to deliver, you will understand Oliseh’s predicament.
Enyeama should not have insisted on speaking when Oliseh told him not to, while Oliseh should never have involved the hotel’s security staff. Enyeama wasn’t going to beat him up in the presence of the other players, was he?
But the biggest gaffe, for me, has to be Enyeama’s Instagram post the day after the whole situation.
Apparently, the intervention of the senior players and Nigeria Football Federation officials had calmed things down and Enyeama was still going to be a part of the team.
But that Instagram post just BOOM blew everything up! It was the hand that removed the pin from the grenade and led to a massive explosion. It was the finger on the trigger. Social media was definitely NOT the mature way to go under those circumstances.
With insinuations of being threatened with humiliation (being stripped naked) and the mention of disrespect to his late mother, Enyeama crossed the line to the ‘point of no return.’ (There is a spot on Goree Island in Senegal on the banks of the sea, where once captured Africans reached, they were bound for the plantations of the Western world as slaves. Once you got to that spot, there was no going back; it’s the ‘point of no return.’)
Oliseh was forced to reply and make an attempt to clear his name, especially about Enyeama’s dear mum. As expected, Ol9seh denied ever disrespecting the woman (May her soul rest in peace), and right there was the end of any chance of reconciliation with Oliseh.
Oliseh and Enyeama are two hot-heads who cannot work together in the same team.
The best thing is for them to be allowed to go their separate ways.
Obviously, one of them had to go for peace to reign and avoid a toxic atmosphere to fester in camp.
The one that has left is the one who has gone far into his Super Eagles playing journey and was not far from the end anyway.
The one who remains is the one who has just begun his coaching journey.
Let us wish these two great Nigerian sportsmen the best in their separate sojourns.