Israel's Nigerian World Cup contingent

By Simon Griver, June 10, 2010
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Hapoel Tel Aviv's Nigerian international goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama will lead a contingent of five Israel-based players to the World Cup.

They include all three goalkeepers in the Nigeria squad: Enyeama, Austin Ejide (Hapoel Petach Tikvah) and Dele Ayienugba (Bnei Yehuda) as well as South African defender Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa) and Slovenian midfielder Andrej Komac (Maccabi Tel Aviv).

Enyeama, 27, who has been in Israel for five years, first with Bnei Yehuda and then with Hapoel for the past three, faces Lionel Messi and Argentina tomorrow night. He said: "I feel like Israel is my home and that I am representing Israel in the World Cup."

However, he is unlikely to repeat the antics of former Hapoel Tel Aviv defender John Pantsil who in 2006 ran around the pitch waving the Israeli flag after Ghana's 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. This saw Pantsil reprimanded and Ghana's foreign minister apologised over the incident to Arab ambassadors. Pantsil was subsequently signed by West Ham and currently plays for Fulham.

Eyeama is also eager to find a Premier League outfit. He said: "I get the feeling that the top clubs in Europe don't respect or trust them African goalkeepers.

"There is just one African goalkeeper, Carlos Kameni of Cameroon at Espanyol, in the top leagues of England, Spain, Germany and Italy. It's not racism but the Europeans just don't seem to rate African goalkeepers."

Enyeama, who played a major part in Hapoel's double winning season, will be happy to remain in Tel Aviv.

He said: "I think we can make an impact in the Champions League Group stages and that is something I won't get even at a leading Premier League club."

    Last updated: 4:46pm, June 10 2010