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Ahmed Musa wants more opportunities for home-based players in Eagles

By Christian Okpara
20 November 2023   |   5:34 am
.Pleads for patience, affirms Nigeria ‘ll win 2024 AFCON Super Eagles’ Captain, Ahmed Musa, has urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to encourage coaches of the national teams to look inwards for players rather than relying wholly on overseas-born players of Nigerian descent. Musa, a product of the moribund Nigerian youth development system, said the…

Nigeria’s captain Ahmed Musa speaks during the pre-match press conference (Photo by Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP)

.Pleads for patience, affirms Nigeria ‘ll win 2024 AFCON

Super Eagles’ Captain, Ahmed Musa, has urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to encourage coaches of the national teams to look inwards for players rather than relying wholly on overseas-born players of Nigerian descent.

Musa, a product of the moribund Nigerian youth development system, said the Super Eagles have been performing poorly because the team is built on shaky foundation, noting that although overseas-born players have brought certain quality to the national teams, some of them don’t have the doggedness and resilience to take the country to its desired heights.

Speaking at the weekend during the Lagos launch of the ‘Let’s do It Again’ campaign, which is aimed at galvanising support for the Super Eagles to win the Cote d’Ivoire 2024 African Cup of Nations, Musa said bringing in home-grown players would give the national team a solid foundation to grow.

He said: “I want to say that we have to go back to the basics, the local league. I started from the local league and grew to play overseas.
“We have many players in the local league good enough to vie for shirts in the Super Eagles. What are they playing for if we don’t invite them to the Super Eagles. We must encourage them to get the best out of them.
“Now, everyone wants to go to Europe because they think that the Nigerian league is not recognised by our people; that is not right.”

He urged Nigerian league clubs to meet their obligations to players, saying that owing players that toil for the clubs is another way to drive them away from the system.

“Even if it is N500,000, you must pay them because they have needs to solve with the money. If they get their salary regularly, they will not think of going outside because they have everything they need here.
“When you play overseas, all you get is money, but the life is boring. Here, you have your family and friends and can manage your money well if it comes on time.”

On the Super Eagles’ recent poor performances and the dream of winning the 2024 African Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, Musa said the target is achievable, adding, however, that Nigerians must change their attitude towards the players to get the best out of them.

“We should be encouraged to improve on our performance rather than this current type of criticism. We have young boys in the team and a lot of them cannot take the pressure. This type of criticism and the insult on Facebook and twitter has forced so many players to retire prematurely from the national team.
“The overseas-based players don’t have the resilience to withstand caustic criticism. It makes them jittery each time they come to play for Nigeria; they don’t understand the type of anger Nigerians express against them.
“Most of the fans don’t support Super Eagles because of their love for Nigeria; they support the team because of betting; if we win, they win, if we lose, their bet is cut.
“You see many people coming to our social media handles to threaten to deal with us because we cut their ticket and we must pay them for that. But before, fans loved the game because they loved the country. Nowadays, betting has spoilt that love.
“I am pleading with Nigerian fans and journalists to please take it easy with this team. Some of them cannot take the pressure, but they want to win.
“Odion Ighalo quit the Super Eagles because some people threatened to kill his family. Why would you want to kill my family because I am playing for my country? That was why he quit the national team. When you go outside the country they worship you, but when you come back home, you are treated with disdain.
“People are saying that I am too old to play for the Super Eagles. They forget that I was the youngest player in the Super Eagles when I joined the team in 2010. As a matter of fact, I played for the U-20 team, the Olympic team and the Super Eagles under one month. My first game was in Calabar where I had five minutes to express my talent and I impressed the coaches to remain in the team up to this day. I was 19 years old then.”

Musa recalled how he was plugged from JUTH FC of Jos to national limelight by football administrators, who had eyes for raw talents and worked to develop the talents to national icons.

He said, “I was able to succeed because the coaches, NFF and fans encouraged me to work hard and succeed. I remember when I was in Leicester and the coach was not playing me, the then NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, encouraged then Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, to continue relying on me because he saw what I could do. I came back from the Russia 2018 World Cup as one of the best players because the NFF believed in me.

“I remember that after the World Cup, some people started a campaign, ‘Ahmed Musa for president’ because of only two goals. You can imagine what would have happened if we won the World Cup.

“That is the type of support we should give the current Super Eagles. Most of them don’t know the Nigerian way, they never lived in Nigeria and therefore, find it difficult to cope with the type of criticism they have received in recent time.”

Going down the memory lane, Musa recalled that the Super Eagles under the late Stephen Keshi did not elicit much confidence from Nigerians before and in the first few games of the 2013 African Cup of Nations.

“In 2013, Nigerians didn’t believe we could beat Cote d’Ivoire; in fact, the NFF had already booked our tickets to take us back home. In that team, we had seven home-based players and five were starters. But the chief coach and his assistant, Daniel Amokachi, believed in us. We beat Cote d’Ivoire and went ahead to win the title. The winning goal was scored by Sunday Mbah, a home-based player. That team had determination and the resilience to succeed against all odds.”

On the current state of the national team, Musa said the team is still a work in progress, adding that it would come good with time.

According to Musa, the failure to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup taught the players that they should not take anything for granted. He added that all they need is support and conducive environment to return to the top of African football.

“When we failed to qualify for the World Cup, all the players locked themselves in their rooms after the game and wept because it was difficult for everybody. We lost so much in career progression because the World Cup was the shopping window and if you were not there, no matter what you did elsewhere, nobody will reckon with you.”