Usually considered the number three Nigeria goalkeeper, Dele Aiyenugba is not only understudy to number one choice Vincent Enyeama at national team level, he followed in his compatriot’s footsteps at both domestic club Enyimba and Israeli side Bnei Yehuda. In fact, he gained some fame as Enyimba won the African Champions League in two consecutive years as the substitute for Enyeama who was brought in specifically for his ability in penalty shootouts. Though his chances in the starting line-up with the national team have been limited, the 26-year-old made a positive impression when his number was called in the joint qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, which happened earlier this year.
A good omen for Aiyenugba is that one of his brightest moments actually came in South Africa in September of 2008, when Nigeria ran out 1-0 winners over Bafana Bafana in Port Elizabeth as the Super Eagles went on to eliminate the FIFA World Cup hosts from qualifying for the continental tournament. His quick thinking and reflexes preserved the all-important clean sheet as he came off his line to save in the late stages of the match from Siyabonga Nkosi, who had broken free and looked certain to equalise. It was the perfect argument for the value of a back-up goalkeeper, called upon infrequently but expected to be sharp when he is. Aiyenugba also minded the store with confidence in Nigeria’s 4-1 win over Sierra Leone in the same preliminary round. Some impressive performances for his Tel Aviv club this season assure the athletic shot-stopper a place in the Nigeria squad, where he will no doubt be prepared if his number ends up on the team sheet.