7 Nigeria’s Greatest Goalkeepers of All Time

The older generation who saw some of these players in action would tell you there’s no goalkeeper today that can match the ability of Carl O’Dwyer or Eyo Essien. But today fans may feel Dosun Joseph who helped Nigeria’s dream team win gold medal in 1996 Olympics or Ike Shorunmu who kept Nigeria’s goal post for nearly a decade (2000 -2009), should be among Nigeria’s seven greatest goalkeeper of all time.

It was quite difficult to assess the abilities of some of the goalkeepers, since there was no video coverage for those whose career span in early 50s’ – 70s.’ We had to rely on the verdicts of some ex-footballers such as Joe Erico, Segun Odegbami, Christian Chukwu, Peter Fregene… to make our selections. Let’s see why these lads were regarded by us as Nigeria’s seven greatest goalkeepers of all time.

Sam Ibiam
Sam Ibiam: cut an incredible reputation as the goalkeeper players can’t beat with the ball. He conceded only 9 goals in six years of his career in Nigeria.  Started his career with Calabar XI in 1946, Port Harcourt XI in 1949, and won the Governor’s cup with Railway FC, where he starred with Teslim ‘thunder’ Balogun in 1953.

Ibiam became Nigeria’s first international goalkeeper on the trip with UK tourists in 1949. He took over from Isaac Akioye as a reserve goalkeeper and was in goal for Nigeria throughout the tour, except for the first game.

Ibiam also became the first player to venture outside Nigeria when he signed for Accra Great Olympics of Ghana in 1956.

Inua Lawal Rigogo
 Inua Lawal Rigogo: The story of Rigogo remains a myth. He is perhaps the greatest goalkeeper Nigeria ever had. Though, many believed that he employed charms with the way he flies from pole to pole and made some incredible somersaults – that can’t be ordinary.  Ghana’s President Kwame Nkurmah, once described him as a ‘Flying Cat.’

You dare not score Rigogo! Though. We don’t have records of his club career at ECN, but as a national team goalkeeper, he conceded the least goals – 4 goals over his 8 years career between 1960– 1969.

Peter Fregene
  Peter Fregene: one of the finest goalkeepers Nigeria ever had. His career was like the life of a phoneix that keep rejuvenating and resurfacing to life again.

Fregene is indeed the longest serving goalkeeper, whose career spanned through the 60s’, 70s’ and 80s.’ He became the national team goalkeeper from 1966 – 71 and resurfaced again after 12 years to become the first choice goalkeeper for Green Eagles in 1982.

Fregene was in goal for Nigeria in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico and he won FA cup 2 times with ECN and Stationery Stores in the 60s’ and 70s.’

Emmanuel Okala
    Emmanuel Okala: The frightening moustache and intimidating goalkeeper of Enugu Rangers. He’s perhaps another player that could pass as Nigeria’s greatest goalkeeper of all times.

With his height and intimidating size, attackers were afraid to approach Okala and often don’t find space to shoot or place the ball to the far end. He’s a true giant who was fondly called “Iroko in the net.”

Okala was in goal for Nigeria and won All African games gold medal in 1973. He was also in the team that won Nigeria’s first nations cup in 1980.

Best Ogedegbe
Best Ogedengbe: He was perhaps the most skillful goal keeper Nigeria ever had. Just like the great boxing legend, Mohammed Ali, Ogedengbe would boast that no one will score him in a particular match and it will be so.

With the reputation of Emmanuel Okala and to the surprise of fans, Otto Gloria chose Ogedengbe as his first choice goalkeeper ahead of Okala during the 1980 nation’s cup, which Nigeria won.

Ogedengbe was known for taking penalty kicks and he saved a lot for his IICC club side.

Peter Rufai
Peter Rufai:  He was a great goalkeeper and a great team leader. Rufai had a very illustrious football career that started from Stationery Stores to Dragon of Benin. Then, he traveled to Europe to be the goalkeeper of Lokeren, Beveren, GoAhead Eagles, Deportivo la Coruna…

Rufai was always the first choice goalkeeper anytime he was invited to the national team, despite the presence of other equally great goalkeepers like Alloy Agwu, David Ngodigha, and Wilfred Agbonvbare… He always became captain in any team he played for. So he grew to become the captain of Super Eagles.

Rufai won the African nations cup in1994 and became the first Nigeria goalkeeper to play in FIFA World cup in the same year.

Vincent Enyeama
Vincent Enyeama: A great goalkeeper in all ramifications. Though he doesn’t cut the myth of Inua Lawal Rigogo or the colossus reputation of Emmanuel Okala, yet Enyeama still pass as Nigeria’s greatest goalkeeper of all times, in terms of his achievements.

Enyeama won CAF Champions league back to back in 2003 and 2004. He won Nigeria premier league twice and the FA Cup.  He also won African Cup of nations in 2013 and has been the first choice goalkeeper to 2 FIFA world cup and the confederations Cup. 

Other Great Goalkeepers’

1. Carl O’Dwyer                                     2.  Eyo Essien
3. Emmanuel Ominunu                          4. Olu Onagoruwa
5. Joe Erico                                            6  Amusa Adisa
7. Alloy Agwu                                       8.. Willy Pkpara
10. David Ngodigha                              10..Wilfred Agbonavbare
11. Dosun Joseph                                  12. Ike Shorumu
13. Dele Aiyengba                                14.  Austin Ejide...


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