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Bribe, influence in players’ selection ‘killed’ cadet teams in 2019, says Lawal

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Former Nigerian international, Oladimeji Lawal, has said that the National U-17, U-20, and U-23 teams could not excel in various competitions last year due to bad influence and compromise in team selection. He stated that the practice offering bribe to coaches to influence players’ selection had become the order of the day in Nigerian football.

Lawal, who expressed worries over the future of cadet national teams in the country, said that during his playing days in the U-17 and U-20 squad, team selection was based on what a player could offer without the coach being influenced with money or external forces. 

The team manager of Shooting Stars FC of Ibadan cautioned that if measures were not put in place to curtail the dubious attitude of some Nigerians who specialises in manipulating players’ selection, Nigeria would continue to fumble at international cadet championships.

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Lawal added that it was a big shame that Nigeria that had dominated Africa and the world at the U-17 and U-20 levels with young players from the domestic scene could not qualify for the quarterfinal and semifinal of the World Cups held in 2019.

He, however, called on the NFF to look inwards in revamping football at the grassroots level. “The way players are selected into the junior national team now is different from my days. These days, money and sentiments are used to pick players. This is why the cadet teams did not perform well in 2019.

“In my playing days, even if the player was from an elite class, he would compete with players from the poor area. Coaches don’t compromise in selections. They go for the best. It is a pity now that things are not done right in players selection for junior national teams,” he said.

Speaking further. Lawal said: “I was surprised that most of the players that took part in the U-17 and U-20 World Cup were those selected from abroad. This is not the system that made our cadet teams dominate the world in my time. Why should we go abroad to get young players to play for Nigeria? We have enough players in the country who understand our values and football culture.

“To me, this present system of seeking for foreign-based players is an act of laziness on the part of the coaches and NFF. Something has to be done to stop this act. We have abundant talents in the country. Why sourcing for young players overseas?,” Lawal queried.

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