Nigeria aim to make history at the 2018 World Cup by becoming the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals. While these is quintessence to a politician telling his citizens exactly what they want to hear just to get their votes after which he gets to office and completely forgets his promises, this is different. This were the thoughts of the incumbent NFF president expressed in words; read for yourself…
“All efforts we are building now are geared towards getting Nigeria to play the semi-finals in Russia,” Amaju Pinnick, the Nigeria Football Federation president, told BBC Sport.
Did I hear you mumble “how is this possible?” “2018? Let’s be realistic please…” Oh! Maybe I didn’t hear you. Maybe they are the responses I expect from every supporter of the Super Eagles who has been disappointed in time past. But the NFF president really believes in this “vision” and it just tells why the Capacity Building courses have been taken seriously.
Amaju believes “We have the manpower to do that. The talent in Nigeria is amazing.”
Although South African journalist Mark Gleeson thinks otherwise. He gave a simple exercise on a programme on television some weeks back when he said, “Can you mention how many Nigerian players are playing in Europe?” He mentioned Mikel Obi, Vincent Enyeama, Ogenyi Onazi and then stopped…maybe with a little effort he would have mentioned Victor Moses, Kenneth Omeruo, Efe Ambrose and Osaze Odemwingie but then he stopped on just three.
Six to 10 years ago, any foreigner could start and name at least 10-15 players before stopping, now it is only three or seven at most before you start ‘Googling’ the names and where they are presently playing. Well, a supporter who pays much attention will likely mention 10 without including names like Obafemi Martins or Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
Now what that tells you is that Nigeria don’t have big names anymore. Majority of the current crop of the national team are of average ability and below. Hence, they are not playing for elite European clubsides. Although you cannot entirely fault the Federation or even the coaches for the lack of “Big-name” players. It is down to the footballers themselves to be hungry enough for the top place. The players seem content earning their “few” thousands of Pounds or Euros weekly regardless of the team they represent either consistently or just as a squad member, they don’t seem to care.
Interestingly, the NFF president believes that the appointment of Stephen Keshi is the best for the National team at this time. Although, why his contract will end after AFCON 2017 and not after the World Cup in 2018 instead is a different discussion.
“We (NFF) made no mistake in re-appointing Keshi. In his first term, Keshi did a lot to encourage the boys in the domestic League, and the boy who scored our winning goal at the Africa Cup of Nations, Sunday Mba, was playing in the domestic scene.”
I share his sentiment, Keshi did what no foreign coach would have done. No foreign coach will go after and play home based footballers ahead of the European based folks unless it is stipulated in their contracts – and why should it? Believe it or not, there is always that bias for the foreign based pros.
See how Sergio Busquets evolved at Barca? He was promoted from Barca B and gradually integrated into the team by a coach (Pep Guardiola) who once managed the Barca B side. The result? Yaya Toure (Who plays in Busquets position) was sold a season after just to accommodate this budding defensive midfielder. Subsequently, the “young” and “inexperienced” Busquets became a mainstay for both Club and Country. Same was done for Pedro Rodriguez.
One of the many things Keshi did right in 2012/13 was the guts to invite and play homebased players whom he considered to be better than foreign pros in key games. See, when Godfrey Oboabona/Kenneth Omeruo are playing a game while Joseph Yobo sits on the bench, or Sunday Mba is playing and Nosa Igiebor is on the bench, how on earth will these boys not fight for 90+ minutes on the pitch? It all went wrong when there was no more competition for places. When boys arrived camp and they know they are starting the next game regardless of how bad they play in this game.
But that may no longer be the case and thank goodness it is so….
“If any player thinks that he will get into this team because of what he has done in the past, that player will be disappointed. This is a new era and only those who will give 150 percent will be given the chance.” – Stephen Keshi
Stephen Keshi also believe that the support of Nigerians will get the Eagles to Soar again.
“Nigerian football must return to where it was in the past and we need the support of Nigerians to achieve that,”
Well, that is very true. But the support will only return when players are invited and played solely based on their performance at club level. When outstanding U-20 and U-23 stars are gradually bedded into the Super Eagles pool and when we return to our identity.
By Tolu Olorunmoteni