By Jacob Ajom
Former Super Eagles captain and first choice goalkeeper Peter Rufai has identified Nigeria’s failure to beat South Africa in a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo as biggest set back in Vincent Enyeama’s abortive bid to win the 2014 Glo-CAF African Footballer of the Year Award.
In a chat with Sports Vanguard, Rufai who won the 1994 Nations Cup with the Super Eagles said, “that the match in Uyo spoiled everything Enyeama had worked for throughout the whole year. The period was crucial. If they had won that match and qualified for the Nations Cup, Enyeama would have won the Glo-CAF Player of the Year award.”
In general terms, Rufai said Yaya Toure, who eventually bagged the award was the best in the continent at the moment and blamed the lack of quality footballers in Nigeria for the country’s inability to win the award for sometime now.
“I think the players we have on stage now are not vibrant enough to compete with their counterparts from other countries. They have not been able to rise to the occasion,” he said, citing the country’s failure to qualify for the 2015 Nations Cup as a pointer.
“Until players for the national team are selected on merit, we will continue to find ourselves in this mess,” the proprietor of Staruf Football Academy said. He recalled that in their active days as footballers, it took a lot for a player to get an invitation to the national team.
Said he, “the national team is not meant for beginners. You don’t go there to learn how to trap or control the ball. Before one gets an invitation to the national team camp, one is supposed to be a polished player who should fit into any coach’s plan. One must be extra good to get an invitation to camp, talk less of wearing the national jersey.”
He continued, “what we see now is as if the team has become a Boys Scout company, where recruitment is open to every Dick, Tom and Harry.”
In our days, one must pass through scrutiny of both the technical crew and the technical committee before one wears the national team shirt. And the results were there for all to see,” he said.