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Leave Isreal now! –Rufai tells Eagles’ keepers

As the year draws to a close, former Nigerian international goalkeeper, Peter Rufai, who stood between the goalposts for Nigeria for over a decade, and won laurels with the Super Eagles, has charged the trio of Vincent Enyeama, Dele Aiyenugba and Austin Ejide to seek for greener pastures in other parts of Europe if they intend to join the big league of goalkeepers in the world.

The former Stationery Stores of Lagos and Femo Scorpions’ safe hands, played international football in Benin Republic with AS Dragons before heading for Belgium, where he spent six years. Thereafter, he joined Go Ahead Eagles in Holland. But much as his records go before him, Rufai has declared that Nigeria’s top three goalkeepers are making themselves inferior before the world.

The reason for his declaration is simply: “the trio of Vincent Enyeama, Dele Aiyenugba and Austin Ejide, are playing in a league that is not as competitive as others in Europe.”

Rufai launched a fierce attack on the base of the players, declaring that where they play their games goes a long way in determining how they are rated among other goalkeepers in Africa and in the world.

“Where our goalkeepers ply their trade matters a great deal, as it affects their rating. All our three goalkeepers to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa play their games in Israel where the league is not as competitive as it is in places like Spain, England, Portugal, Holland, Italy, France or even Turkey.

“There is no doubt that they may be playing for the best teams in the Israel, but that is not enough to reckon them among the world-class keepers.”

He recalled that though he started his professional career in neighbouring Benin Republic, he was always challenged to take his game to a higher league, a desire that later saw him joining the Belgian, Spanish and Dutch leagues. “I expect our goalkeepers to have the same type of attitude because it will help in their ratings.

They don’t necessarily have to wait for big teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United or their like across France, Italy, Belgium, Portugal to mention a few to come calling for them. I rather believe that they can make greater impact with middle class teams, as they would be outstanding with their performances in such teams. Don’t forget how our players in Europe were rated in the mid 90s even though most of them started with middle class teams.”

Rufai noted that stars like Stephen Keshi, Daniel Amokachi, Samson Siasia, Uche Okechukwu, Celestine Babayaro, Ike Shorunmu, George Finidi, Nwankwo Kanu, Taribo West, Victor Ikpeba and others, flourished because they were in top teams across Europe in their playing days.

“If the new Super Eagles must be as competitive as it should be, then our players, including the goalkeepers, need to be in top-class leagues across the globe.

We need Enyeama, Aiyenugba and Ejide to get greater challenges that will bring out the best in them, if not, they will remain inferior goalkeepers in the eyes of the world. I believe that a move to other parts of Europe will greatly uplift their performances. I say this because I speak from experience. It worked for me and I am sure that it will work for them as well.

“These players mean a lot to me because the goalkeeping department is very important in every team. If our goalkeepers move to more competitive leagues, the kind of training they will engage in will be a whole lot different from what they are getting at the moment in their current clubs.”

Rufai, it would be recalled, played 65 international matches for Nigeria, scoring once. He represented the nation at two FIFA World Cups, always as starter: 1994 (Nigeria’s first-ever appearance, where he also acted as captain) and 1998.

He was also in the squad of Eagles that won the Africa Nations Cup in Tunisia in 1994.

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Posted by on Dec 25 2010. Filed under Soccer, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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