Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi
By Olawale Ajimotokan
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi will not glorify the top clubs in Europe with visits or discussions on timely release of players for the Africa of Nations campaign in January next year.
Nigeria’s elite players are in Europe and getting them together before the Africa Cup of Nations will help Nigeria in blending a strong team for the tournament which the Eagles last won in 1994.
The Nigerian federation has fixed January 4, 2013 as the date it expects all invited foreign based players to report in Faro, Portugal, where the Eagles will camp, before the final squad flies to South Africa for the continental event.
But past experience has shown that European clubs, particularly those in England, are not comfortable with idea of players having to join training camp and be away for as long as five weeks for the Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
John Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwengie, Victor Moses, Efe Ambrose and Shola Ameobi, who play for clubs in the English and Scottish leagues, are among the group of players that Keshi will be banking on for the continent’s biggest football attraction.
But Nigeria may have to break a mould of sweats before they get the players in time as British teams don’t go on Winter break which is a busy period when key fixtures will be played in December and January.
Chelsea will lose Moses and Mikel, while Newcastle which is already depleted by injuries to key players, notably Yohanne Cabaye and Dan Gosling, will have to adjust to life without Ameobi and Cheik Tiote, who will also be away on duty for Cote d'Ivoire.
But NFF Secretary General Musa Amadu, said Thursday night that the federation would not engage Keshi on a shuttle mission to Europe, to seek the mutual understanding of the clubs.
Amadu said Nigeria would be adequately guided by the FIFA clause that compels all clubs to release all players required for international duty to join their national teams 14 days before a tournament.
The Africa Cup of Nations will kick off on January 19, 2013.
“We will not send Keshi to Europe for any talks with the clubs. The rule is very clear and we expect to have all our players in Portugal two weeks before the commencement of the tournament”, Amadu said.
Amadu, however, said that the federation would expect a packed house in Portugal, particularly as other foreign based players from leagues that will observe the Winter Break will join the Eagles camp, along with the home based players when the camp officially opens on December 17.
Russia, Ukraine, Spain, France, Germany and Italy are different from England in the sense that they go on winter break, a development that will delight the Super Eagles technical crew as the bulk of the Nigerian players are based here.