With the Nigeria Professional Football League not living up to the standard of churning out players for the Super Eagles, second choice goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, was the only player from the NPFL to Nigeria’s team to the 2018 World Cup. The Nigeria Football Federation in recent time has therefore been relying heavily on players of Nigerian descent in Europe to form the bulk of the national. With Arsenal naming 11 Nigerians in their 2018/19 Premier League season, the majority of Eagles players in future major competitions may be coming from the North London club, writes Kunle Adewale
Nigeria football League was once so exciting and competitive that Nigerian players are signed on straight to European clubs without having to go through trials- Finidi George, Dosu Joseph, Etim Esin, are just few examples.
But not anymore, as players from the Nigeria Professional Football League are only good for trials in countries like Cyprus, Lebanon, India, Singapore and some other little-known football nations of the world, and are, therefore, not even seen as good enough to don the senior national team shirt.
Little wonder at the summer World Cup in Russia, the only player from the NPFL to make the Super Eagles team to the World Cup, goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, was only good for the bench with little or no chance manning the post.
The eggheads of the Nigeria Football Federation have therefore resorted to wooing ‘foreign’ players with Nigerian roots to forming the bedrock of the national team, which the president of the federation, Amaju Pinnick, described as VIP scouting.
The NFF boss had reiterated severally that youngsters of Nigerian origin who are doing well in England and other leagues will wear the Nigerian colours at the appropriate time.
He said it had been in the plans of the present NFF board to build a young Super Eagles team ahead of the 2022 World Cup, adding that the federation is monitoring several Nigerian players that are making waves in the various leagues.
“The initial plan was to take our players in the various clubs, but now, what we are trying to do is what we call VIP scouting – talking to these young players that are playing abroad to play for their fatherland. No Nigerian, even if they have four or five passports, they are always excited about being Nigerians. I can assure you that we shall get them to play for us at the appropriate time,” Pinnick said.
With Arsenal having named 11 Nigerians (not products of Nigeria League) in their squad for 2018/19 Premier League season, Pinnick, who interestingly is a fan of the North London club could as well start monitoring their progress in the quest of wooing them to play for Nigeria in future.
The players are Alex Iwobi, who has played severally for Nigeria but currently sidelined with illness and would not be part of the Super Eagles’ Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles today.
There is also Eddie Nketiah, who is expected to see the first-team action this season, especially in the Carabao Cup and Europa League group stages.
The remaining nine players are all youngsters and classed as U-21.
They are Ryan Alebiousu, Xavier Amaechi, Folarin Balogun, Tolaji Bola, Arthur Okonkwo, James Olayinka, Joseph Olowu, Tobi Omole and Bukayo Saka.
Nigerians should, therefore, be watching out for these future stars as they may form the bedrock of Nigeria’s team to the 2002 World Cup slated for Qatar.