IMPOSSIBILITY IS NOTHING!
One of the invitees to the Super Eagles' World Cup camp in England, Gregory Etafia, has vowed that his current form and experience would win him a place in the 23-man squad for the Mundial in South Africa. The South African-based first choice goalkeeper of Moroka Swallows FC is so optimistic that he would make the World Cup team if only the Super Eagles' Technical Adviser, Lars Lagerback, would pick his team on merit. He boasted that he's one of the best goalkeepers in Africa at the moment.
Speaking from his base in South Africa, Etafia, who had been a fringe national team goalkeeper for close to 10 years now, insisted that his time has come to shine with the Nigerian national team and that nothing would thrill him most than being selected among the three goalkeepers that would make Eagles final list for the 2010 World Cup.
“I am happy to be among the five goalkeepers invited by Coach Lagerback for the World Cup camping in London. My form, hard work and experience will certainly help me to make the team this time around. I know my current form is good enough to win me a substitute's shirt if not a starting one in Eagles' matches at the World Cup.
“All the five goalkeepers are good, but I think I have an edge when it comes to experience and form. We shall all be trying to impress the new coach at the training camp and only the three, who are hungrier to go to the World Cup, will make the team. Right now, I can say that I am that hungry guy because the World Cup is holding in South Africa where I play as a professional, and don't forget that I may never have this opportunity again to play at that level.
“The fight for a place in the World Cup team will be fierce in all the positions, but I really want to be at the Mundial. I believe that if the coaches will not look at faces or listen to advise from outsiders, I will definitely make the team.
“I am not saying that I am the best goalkeeper in Nigeria, but I am optimistic that I can break into the first three to be picked for the World Cup,” the former Golden Eaglets' player stated.
Asked if the semi-final target set for the Super Eagles by the football authorities in the country could be realised, Etafia said that all that is required is discipline, total commitment and patriotism for the team to go far at the World Cup. He stated that Nigeria has the required talents to meet any target if everybody would play his part on and off the pitch.
On why he had remained in South Africa for over 10 years, Etafia said he chose to play in that country because he's happy with his club and he had enjoyed the Rainbow nation all these years.
“South Africa has been good to me, I am there because I am enjoying my game and the fans appreciate me.”
Etafia has to contend for a place in the World Cup-bound team with the like of Vincent Enyeama, Dele Aiyenugba, Austin Ejide, all based in Israel, and Bassey Akpan, who is the only home-based goalkeeper in the camp.
Enyeama has been number one since the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, where he took over from Ike Shorunmu. The former Enyimba FC's safe hands later lost the number one position to Austin Ejide in 2007, when German Berti Vogts was the national team coach, but he regained the position during the Amodu Shaibu's era as the head coach and to his credit, he was in goal all through the 2010 World and Nations Cup qualifiers.
Aiyenugba Dele, who plies his trade at Bnei Yahuda of Israel, has been the second choice goalkeeper since 2008 when Amodu took over charge from Vogts. He has only been given opportunity to play in a couple of friendly matches. He is in good form for his club and would want to be one of the three keepers for the World Cup.
Austin Ejide, whose good physique endeared him to Vogts, has been plagued by injury in recent years, which led to his changing from his French League 2 club to Israel, where he plays for Hapoel Petah Tikya. He was quoted as wanting to regain his number one shirt under Lagerback.
The Home-based Super Eagles' goalkeeper, Akpan, who shone at the just-concluded WAFU Nations Cup, is the least of the goalkeepers vying for a place in the World Cup team. He came through the ranks as a member of the Golden Eaglets team that lost the final of the World Cup to France in 2001, and may just be satisfied with the exposure he would get being in the World Cup camp.