Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was named on the final three-man shortlist for the BBC African Footballer of the Year 2014, along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and eventual winner Yaya Touré. The current Lille OSC player is known as one of the best goalkeepers in the game, giving him the unusual shot at the Footballer of the Year award, which is rarely given to goalkeepers. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about him
While playing for Enyimba International F.C., Enyeama was always substituted before penalty shootouts
In 2001, Enyeama joined Enyimba International football club in the Nigerian Premier League, playing under manager Idris Ikhana. While he was the club’s first-choice goalkeeper, Ikhana made the decision to always sub out Enyeama before penalty shots. The tactic seemed to work. Enyimba won two CAF Champions League titles while Enyeama played for them.
He won a Player of the Year as goalkeeper despite not playing for the championship-winning team
During the 2008-2009 season while playing for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League, Enyeama was named the Player of the Year. This was quite unusual. Goalkeepers rarely receive the award, and Hapoel did not win the championship that season.
Enyeama kept a clean sheet for 1,062 minutes in his first Ligue 1 season with Lille OSC
For his first 11 matches for Lille OSC, Enyeama didn’t let in any goals, playing 1,062 minutes with a clean sheet. Enyeama eventually let in a goal on Dec. 8, 2013, against Bordeaux. He came within 114 minutes of Gaëtan Huard’s 1993, 1,176-minute goalkeeping record without conceding a goal.
He was involved in a fatal car crash in 2004
In 2004, Enyeama was a passenger in a car in Uyo, Southeast Nigeria, that hit two motorcycle riders. The two motorcyclists died and the driver of the car was in critical condition. Enyeama came out with several bruises – amazing, given that the car somersaulted twice as it swerved to avoid the motorbike.
He has played for the Nigerian Super Eagles for more than a decade
Enyeama first debuted for the Nigerian national team in 2002, and has since racked up 95 appearances for the Super Eagles. He has played in three FIFA World Cup tournaments (2002, 2010, and 2014), and several Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, including the 2013 edition in which he was captain and helped secure Nigeria’s championship win.
At the 2010 World Cup, Enyeama shut down Argentina’s Lionel Messi
In his second FIFA World Cup appearance, Enyeama was named Man of the Match in Nigeria’s opening match against two-time world champion Argentina. Nigeria won 1-0. Enyeama made six spectacular saves, four from football legend Lionel Messi. After the match, Argentinian manager Diego Maradona said Enyeama was the reason Messi was unable to score a goal, giving Nigeria the victory.
He attributes some of his critics’ comments to anti-tribal sentiment
Enyeama is from Akwa Ibom state in South Nigeria, and believes that many of his critics are hard on him due to his ethnicity. He said, “My critics will remain as long I am still with the national team. I am criticized because I am not Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo but I am not worried…Critics make the game sweet so why should I be angry? When they criticize me, they only make me stronger so I give them thanks. I also thank God for giving me strength.”
Enyeama said Ebola makes the Africa Cup of Nations too risky
Though he said he will play in the tournament, Enyema also said he believes that Ebola has made the Africa Cup of Nations tournament too risky. He said, “I really wish it doesn’t happen with all the people that will be moving around. But I’m not CAF. I’m not the one who calls the shots…It’s risky for everyone because you go to Africa and then everyone is hugging you and shaking you, and what can you do? You’re at risk…But if it happens I will play, if we qualify.”
He backtracked on a promise to strip naked if Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 2013
Before Nigeria won the 2013 AFCON tournament, Enyeama said he would dance nude if that happened. Afterwards, however, he backtracked, saying, “I never said I would strip but I remember I did say I would take (off) my jersey but would celebrate with my underpants on but I was advised by well-meaning people against doing so and I changed my mind.”
In 2014, he helped lead Nigeria to her first World Cup win in 16 years
During the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament, Enyeama kept a clean sheet in Nigeria’s first two matches, resulting in a 0-0 draw with Iran and a 1-0 victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina – Nigeria’s first World Cup win since the 1998 tournament. Though he gave up three goals in their last group-match game against Argentina resulting in a 3-2 defeat, Nigeria still qualified for the round of 16 for the first time in 16 years.
•Sources: DailyMail.co.uk, In.com, MjeMagazine.com, ConnectNigeria.com, Goal.com