Former Super Eagles goalkeepers, Alloy Agu and David Ngodigha have backed under-fire goalie, Austin Ejide, despite his shambolic display against Scotland, which brought to light the match-fixing allegation that dominated the pre-match proceedings.
The National Crime Agency, United Kingdom’s equivalent of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), were reported to be investigating the potential case involving the Asian betting market.
Nigeria drew 2-2 with Scotland but a comical error by Super Eagles goalkeeper Austin Ejide has fueled the speculations that the game had been targeted by match-fixers.
Ejide was spared the ignominy of scoring one of the most bizarre own goals in international football history last night but referee Lee Probert judged he had been fouled by Scotland’s Grant Hanley.
The Hapoel Be’er Sheva goalkeeper somehow contrived to push a harmless looking corner into his own net from outside his six-yard box but was challenged by Hanley as he did so, but Premier League referee Probert’s decision to penalise the Scot seemed highly generous to the hapless goalkeeper.
Now, Alloy Agu, who was second-choice to Peter Rufai at 1994 Africa Cup of Nations and USA ’94 World Cup, has laughed off the allegation and insinuation of the culpability of Ejide.
“The suggestions of match-fixing will only distract the team from achieving their goals,” he told TheCable.
“Ejide, as well as the entire team, should be focused. But if Keshi thinks Ejide is not capable he should drop him. Although the essence of a friendly match is to see how prepared we are for the World Cup.
“I’ll want Keshi to show some high level of concentration. He should forget about the issue of match fixing and see it as a distraction.”
Agu, who played 28 international matches for the national team when he was number one choice in the early 90s, agrees, though, that Ejide can only be a back-up to Vincent Enyeama in Brazil.
“After the game against, Scotland I have no doubt that Enyeama is Nigeria’s number one goalkeeper,” he said.
“And that’s on merit considering his form and exploit in Europe. I join many Nigerians to say that Enyeama is our best goalkeeper.”
Under-23 team goalkeeper trainer, David Ngodigha, while not overtly supporting Ejide, refused to write him off completely, saying:
“I don’t agree that Austin Ejide practically threw the ball into his own net. In goalkeeping, when approaching an aerial ball, you catch it at the highest point. That way, the opponent can only contest with your body and not your hands holding the ball.
“Ejide should have punched the ball away instead of trying to catch it. When you are in the air it is very easy to lose grip of the ball and that’s what happened in that situation. Maybe Ejide knew he would be protected by the referee if he was harassed, and as it were, the ref disallowed the goal.
Ngodigha, who is the technical director of Nigeria National League side, Go Round of Rivers State, knows the unpredictability of the game and wouldn’t rule out Ejide’s chances at the World Cup.
“In football, you are as good as your last game,” he said.
“So going by yesterday’s performance, Vincent Enyeama is Super Eagles first choice. But anything can happen in the game.
“I remember during USA ’94 World Cup qualifiers, Wilfred Agbonavbare kept goal for the Super Eagles but at the World Cup proper, Peter Rufai, who was in a better shape, took over.
“Football is like biscuit; you don’t know where it’ll break. But we don’t pray things go bad for us before the World Cup, so [that] we can achieve our aspiration in Brazil.”