For most, (if not all) professional sportsmen, the greatest honour is to represent their country in their respective sporting event(s), at any given level. In most cases, the legendary status of sportsmen is established by either the trophies won or the number of times they have represented their nation. Given this, most players play and aspire to be called up to their national teams, so much so, to an extent that missing out on this ‘call’-whether by injury, poor performances or any other factor-is regarded as a disheartening occurrence. The Nigerian case is not different; many players have worn the famous and greatly coveted ‘Green and White’. Many players still desire to wear that Green and White. The peak of a professional footballer’s career is to play for the senior National Team; that in itself is the only affordable opportunity to win the greatest trophies and participate in the biggest tournaments.
Needless to say then, is the fact that, the number of times a player is capped, is a huge factor in attaining legendary status both for world and country. This leads us to the question of who Nigeria’s most capped senior player in the history of the Nigeria National Team is.
TThe name is Vincent Enyeama, and the number of Caps as at the time of retirement is 101 Caps.
Vincent Enyeama: Nigeria’s Goal-Keeper, Appearances Record Holder
Vincent Enyeama Mazigo, an Indigene of Ika Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, was born on 29th August 1982, in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. He started his footballing career with Ibom Stars in Nigeria in the year 1999. It was from there, he rose to a professional player, playing for Enyimba International of Aba, Abia, Iwanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland FC) of Owerri, Bnei Yehuda in Isreal, Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel, then to Lille in France and eventually Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Israel on loan. He returned back to Lille after his loan.
As a Nigerian professional footballer, a goal keeper precisely, he became a member of the Nigerian national team in the year 2002. He made his debut for the Nigeria national football team against Kenya in May 2002 and was selected for the 2002 FIFA World Cup as a cover for Ike Shorunmu (and debuted eventually in the third group match against England). After Ike Shorunmu’s retirement, he became the first-choice goalkeeper for the national team, helping the Super Eagles to third-place finishes in the 2004, 2006, 2010 Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, and captaining the team to victory of in the 2013 edition. He has also participated in the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, and the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. He was given the Captain’s armband in 2013 and served in the position until his retirement from international football in October 2015. With 101 caps, he is Nigeria’s most capped player of all time.
During his time as a professional football player, Vincent Enyeama won the following trophies and acclaims:
- With Enyimba International F.C.: Nigerian Premier League: 2001, 2002, 2003 CAF Champions League: 2003, 2004
- With Hapoel Tel-Aviv: Israeli Premier League: 2009–10
Israel State Cup: 2010, 2011
- With Maccabi Tel-Aviv: Israeli Premier League: 2012–13
- With the Nigerian Senior Team : Africa Cup of Nations: Winner 2013
Africa Cup of Nations: Third Place (3):2004, 2006, 2010
As an Individual, he garnered the following awards:
- CAF Champions League Player of the Year: 2004
- Footballer of the Year in Israel: 2009
- UNFP Player of the Month: October 2013
- UNFP Player of the Month: November 2013
- Marc Vivien Foé Award: 2014
- Goalkeeper of the year Nigeria Pitch Awards: 2013,2088
- King of the pitch Nigeria Pitch Awards:2014
- Goal Nigeria Player of the Year: 2014
He retired from international football on 8 October 2015 but later reinstated himself in October 2017, though He hasn’t played internationally since then. Vincent Enyeama scored 20 league goals during his professional playing years.
Featured image source: Brila.net