FIFA 2014: Why Nigerians won’t forget Agbim

Chigozie Agbim has put himself in the Nigerian football hall of shame and Nigerians will never forget him for that.

After his performances at the Championship For African Nations, CHAN, he immediately became the man, Nigerian football fans wanted to hate.

His form was so poor at the CHAN that some even believed Nigeria could have done better with an outfield player in goal.

No Nigerian thought of the fact that he had been very inactive for almost one year with the contractual disputes between Warri Wolves and Rangers.

He only trained on his own and with the Super Eagles during games but hardly played a game until the CHAN.

He looked over weight, out of sorts and like a clown who was auditioning to be the lead act at a new circus.

Nigerians will never forget Chigozie Agbim and it is not a new thing in these climes.

Peter Fregene and the AFCON 82 game

In 1982, there was no social media and there were hardly ever live games on Nigerian Television.

However, the AFCON hosted by Libya was live on television.

Peter Fregene: AFCON 1982 against Zambia after the handlers decided to bring him back to the team.

Fegene had not been in goal for Nigeria since November 22, 1970 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against against Congo Brazzaville which Nigeria lost 2-1 away from home.

Peter Fregene had taken over as first choice Green Eagles goalkeeper from Inua Rigogo, the cat on December 7, 1968 in a World Cup qualifying match against Cameroon that ended 1-1 in Lagos

After eleven games as first choice where he conceded twenty three goals he lost his place to Amusa Adisa and was never invited to the national team again until 1982, a full twelve years later.

At the AFCON of 1982, Fregene was in goal for Nigeria in all three first round games-a 3-0 win over Ethiopia, a 2-1 loss to Algeria and a 3-0 loss to Zambia but it was in that loss to Zambia that Fregene made himself a legend.

Covered in defence by Okey Isima, Felix Owolabi, Stephen Keshi, Tunde Bamidele and Leotis Boateng you would think Fregene had his back line well sorted until the 81st minute when Zambia’s third of the game had to be recorded as a Fregene own goal.

An innocuous corner kick which everyone thought would be cuddled by a goalkeeper with Fregene’s experience became a goal when the keeper after he had “caught” the ball, helped it in.

Legend has it that he was angry with something or somebody and did that on purpose but that was the last time he was ever invited to the national team.

Wilfred Agbonibasket Agbonivbare

Wilfred Agbonivbare was emerging as one of Nigeria’s best.
By 1983 he had won the WAFU Cup with New Nigeria Bank FC of Benin as first choice keeper and it would only be a matter of time before he cracked the Peter Rufai/ Patrick Okala hold at the Green Eagles level.

On December 16, 1983, he had his chance with the Green Eagles in a West African Football Union, WAFU Cup game against Togo.

At that time, Togo was not a football playing nation so obviously Nigeria’s Green Eagles were going to wallop them.

In goal was Wilfred and with a defence line of Stephen Keshi, Kingsley Paul, Anthony Edwards and Yisa Sofoluwe, Nigerians believed the goalkeeper had all the cover he needed but at the end of the game it was Togo 5-2 Nigeria; Nigeria’s goals coming from Loius Igwillo and Ademola Adesina.

After the game, Wilfred’s surname was changed by angry Nigerian fans from Agbonavbare to Agbonibasket, the basket implying that he carried lots of goals home.

That name never left him.

Was there any goal he conceded in particular that was his fault? Nigerians did not care. You do not concede five goals against Togo and not have your name changed.

Wilfred did not return to the national team until four years later in an Olympic Games qualifying match against Zimbabwe on October 17, 1987 but no matter what he did, Nigerian football fans hated him.

After moving to BCC Lions from NNB, he crossed over to Spain to sign for Rayo Vallecano in the Segunda División.

In his second season with Rayo, Agbonavbare appeared in all 38 league games (3,332 minutes of action, 27 goals conceded, second-best in the competition) as the club finished second and returned to La Liga after two years of absence. He continued to be first-choice in the following years, contributing with 31 matches to another top flight promotion in 1995.

However, the Eagles did not pay him any attention.

When Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Clemens Westahof recalled Agbonavbare to the team and he was first choice during the USA 1994 World Cup Qualifiers, Nigerians called for the return of Peter Rufai despite Wilfred superb displays in goal.

He eventually dropped to 2nd choice by the World Cup behind Rufai just because he was named Agbonivbasket, a mistake he made in 1983, eleven years earlier.

Abiodun Baruwa and that miskick

In 1997, fresh from leading Shooting Stars Sports Club to the final of the CAF Champions League which they lost to Zamalek and being part of the Atlanta 96 Olympic Football gold medal winning side, Abiodun Baruwa had been called up to the Super Eagles ahead of the World Cup in France in 1998.

Nigeria’s goalkeeping position was facing a transformation with Peter Rufai calling it quits after the World Cup in 1994 but the country was in trouble again.
Joseph Dosu who was in goal as the country won the Olympic Games gold in 1996 cracked his spinal cord a year earlier in a car accident while celebrating Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup; Ike Shorunmu injured himself in a friendly match against Germany; Emmanuel Babayaro had lost his mojo and the country now fell back to Baruwa who looked good until that friendly match against Yugoslavia.

With a back four of Mobi Oparaku, Okechukwu Uche, Taribo West and Garuba Lawal in front of him, Nigerians were optimistic Baruwa would come good.

In the 45th minute Savo Milosevic’s header was resting in the net before Baruwa dived but that was not all.

In the 60th minute, Baruwa received the ball from Taribo West and got lost in his thoughts leaving room for Predrag Mijatovic to steal from him and score.

By the time the third goal went in Nigerians had made up their minds about Baruwa and that was the last time he played for the Eagles or even got an invitation to the national team

Sunday Rotimi and the ECOWAS Cup

Sunday Rotimi had been de-facto 2nd choice goalkeeper in the Eagles, deputizing well for Vincent Enyeama.

In 2004 at the Unity Cup in London, Rotimi was in goal for the Eagles in the absence of Enyeama, then he went to Israel to play his football and returned in 2007, struggling to regain his form and fitness.

Under Samson Siasia, Rotimi, now at Dolphins returned to the Home Based Super Eagles camp for the ECOWAS Cup.

But two serious blunders in the competition’s semi final and final ensured Rotimi’s name did not figure in the next list of Super Eagles invites.

Rotimi has not been called up ever since, and mentioning his name with the Super Eagles may cause a “civil war”

Back to Agbim

Agbim has been lucky that Stephen Keshi kept faith with him despite his poor performances in an Eagles’ jersey.

Currently with the team in Philadelphia as they continue their World Cup preparations, Nigerians do not want to see him in goal and he may never be Nigeria’s 1st choice in goal because of public hate which means a lot in Nigeria.

Having joined up with Gombe United in the Nigeria Professional Football League, Agbim at the last time of counting had played 11 League games and will certainly be in better shape than he was at the CHAN.

Do Nigerians want him in Brazil? No! Nigerians do not forget easily!

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