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Soccer News of Sunday, 22 January 2023


‘I had to collect Enyeama’s boots’ – Ex-Nigerian goalie reveals two memorable encounters with Argentina great Batistuta

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Former Super Eagles goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu has named legendary Argentine forward Gabriel Batistuta as the toughest striker he played against.

Shorunmu faced several fantastic attackers during a career that saw him turn professional in 1990 and retire in 2005.

The Lagos-born shot-stopper played for Stationery Stores, Concord, and Shooting Stars in the domestic league before moving out to Switzerland where he represented Basel, Lucerne, and Zurich. Shorunmu also spent two years at Turkish giants Besiktas.

Between 1992 and 2022, Shorunmu made 36 appearances for the Super Eagles and was Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

However, in all of his days facing elite strikers in the game, Shorunmu has no doubt that former Fiorentina forward Gabriel Batistuta was his ultimate nemesis.

The two first faced each other in a friendly between their clubs in the late nineties and were at it again when Nigeria and Argentina met at the group stage of Korea/Japan 2002.
Argentina won the encounter courtesy of Batistuta’s solitary strike in the 63rd minute.

And Shorunmu recounts how fellow Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama had to come to his rescue after one of his in-match battles with Batistuta.

Alongside Austin Okocha, Ike Shorunmu was the Super Eagles’ best player on the day.

What has Shorunmu said?

When asked, in a chat with The Punch, who was the toughest striker he ever faced, Shorunmu responded: “It was definitely Gabriel Batistuta. I first came face to face with him when I was with FC Zurich in 1997 when we went for pre-season in Italy and we played against Fiorentina.

“It was like a tug-of-war between him and my defenders and even though he is an Argentine he played like an African. Again, I faced him at the World Cup in 2002 in Korea.

“The first 20 minutes of that game was tough and we had a collision and my boot got torn. I had 60 per cent advantage of getting to the ball first, but all of a sudden, I don’t know how it happened, Batistuta got there before me and I rushed out and tore my boot.

“I had to collect Vincent Enyeama’s boots to continue the game because I didn’t have extra boots. He was the toughest striker I ever faced, no doubt about it.”

Since retiring from football, Shorunmu has served as goalkeeping coach at Enyimba and Heartland and he is currently working with Super Eagles’ Portuguese tactician Jose Peseiro.