Nicknamed “The Cat”, Vincent Enyeama is one of the Nigerian National Team’s most favorite players by both his country’s fans and coaches. For several years he had been the undisputed first choice of Nigerian coaches in the squad’s goal. Born on August 29, 1982, he had been the Super Eagles’ top goalkeeper since he replaced Ike Shorunmu in his country’s last game at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
He started his football career at the young age of 16 with the semi-professional club Ibom Stars, he continued to improve his skills until he was signed by the great club Enyimba Aba, where he played for three seasons from 2001-2004. During his time at that club, he won the CAF Champions League twice. However, he was always substituted by his coach before the penalty shoot-out. Not knowing the real reason behind this, but accepting the fact that he was probably not good enough at stopping penalty kicks, he worked doubly hard and mentally trained himself to prepare for such events and not falter. He moved to FC Heartland for the 2005 season before moving to Israel.
At Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv, a minor league club in Israel, he had a very productive first season showing off his feline physical abilities and athletic abilities. In his first season there, his contributions on the field helped his team qualify for the Israel State Cup and achieve fourth place in the Israeli Premier League which, in turn, qualified the team for the UEFA Cup of 2006. He stayed with the club for two seasons and in 2007 he moved to Hapoel Tel Aviv, where he is currently connected.
Although his team did not have a good 2007-08 season, Vincent Enyeama continued to grow and improve not only his goalkeeping skills but also his leadership skills. At a time when his club was not doing well, he wrote a letter to his team asking them to work together and fight for each other and for the club. He had not only continued to improve as a player, but also as a leader, which helped his team not only avoid relegation and also compete for the state cup final. His constant improvements are the result of an excellent training system that includes not only physical conditioning, but also mental training to keep his concentration intact every second of a match.
His consistent performance for his commercial clubs earned him a substitute spot for the 2002 World Cup, where he played only one match, which was against England. During that last group game, he calmed his nerves and maintained his composition to keep a clean sheet and save a draw against the powerful English squad. He has since become his coaches’ first choice for goalkeeper when Ike Shorunmu retired from international soccer.
He had consistently contained his country’s goal during the 2004 and 2006 African Cup of Nations. He had a very memorable aftermath of the 2010 tournament when he saved three penalties in the quarterfinals against Tunisia, but unfortunately lost to Côte d’Ivoire in the semifinal. .
The goalkeeper who had been substituted before the penalty shootout early in his career became the hero of many of Nigeria’s international matches.
In the first group stage game against Argentina at the 2010 World Cup, he had a superb performance in stopping and saving a variety of shots from some of the world’s top scorers such as Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín but was unable to save the match- winning header by Gabriel Heinze. Still, with that loss, he was named Man of the Match for his spectacular performance.
Even in the face of defeat, an athlete who has shown great endurance and desire against a more powerful opponent always receives due recognition. Enyeama, who chose to be better than he was before by constantly learning, is a goalkeeper who has etched his name as one of the best in the world of soccer.