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Etim Esin decries preference for dumped players of Nigerian descent

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Former international, Etim Esin, has expressed concern over the sudden shift in confidence on players with Nigerian descent, who were left out of their countries of birth teams and seeking a second choice, saying that such policy will destroy the spirit of the homegrown players and also efforts at discovering more talent at the grassroots.

During the week, a lot of Nigerian football fans celebrated the exclusion of England-born Bukayo Saka and Belgian-born, Cyriel Dessers, by England and Belgian coaches for next month’s European Nations League.

The non-invitation by both countries meant that there was hope for them to play for Nigeria, as the African three-time champions prepares both for the next African Cup of Nations and the World Cup qualifiers.

Speaking with The Guardian on Friday, Esin believes that the alteration in waiting for ‘rejected players’ with Nigerian descent over the NPFL players, as was the case in the past, will definitely create a vacuum in the development of football in the country.

“I just learnt that the technical department of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) last met over two years ago. And this is a department that handles such issue. The members of this department are usually there to look at such situation and make recommendations to the football federation.

“Why do we have to wait for these players with Nigerian descent to be rejected by their countries of birth, where they began their youth career, before they agree to play for us? What if these players were eventually picked by the coaches to play for their country’s place of birth? And where do we fall back on? I don’t think we need to for this before making our plans on how to develop the ones we have playing in our leagues,” Esin said, adding that the reason why these players choose their countries of birth over their parents’ nationalities was to secure their future after retirement.

“You will not blame these players of Nigerian descent choice to play for the countries of birth due to the security it brings to their future after retirement. For those of us that represented this country, you ask yourself what have they done for us? Nothing! This month marks 31 years after Sam Okwaraji died,” he said.

He then added, “No one should tell me that in the whole of Nigeria that we don’t have talents that can represent us well. We’ve a lot of them in our leagues. All we need is to go back and dig deep to see how we can encourage our leagues and the players.

“Look at South Africa, how many of their players run out to Europe for professional football? Just very few of them and the reason is because they’ve a platform where the players are given the time and opportunity to develop themselves to the benefit of the country’s football.

“My appeal, therefore, is for our football federation to do their best in order to encourage the players by raising the standard of the league. I don’t think we need to wait for any player in the diaspora to be rejected before he can start building our own players too back here,” he stated.


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