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Heartland’s Akuneto sad NPFL players won’t be involved in Eagles’ friendlies


Heartland FC of Owerri midfielder, Chijioke Akuneto, is sad that no player from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) was shortlisted by Coach Gernot Rohr for next month’s friendlies in Austria, ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and World Cup qualifiers.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Monday released a list made up of 100 per cent foreign-based players for the friendlies against Cote d’Ivoire and Tunisia on October 9 and 13 in Austria, as the country gears towards meeting Sierra Leone in an AFCON qualifying fixture in November.

Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, Akuneto regretted that despite the clamour for the inclusion of the NPFL players in the Eagles’ team in international matches, the yet to be lifted ban on contact sports by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic, made the call unfeasible, as the league was yet to kick off as earlier scheduled.

“I feel so bad that none of us in the NPFL made it again for the friendly games next month in Austria; not even goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa was considered because our league is yet to resume due to the coronavirus.

“Some other countries’ leagues have since resumed, but the Nigerian leagues have not started as the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 refused to give the go-ahead for football, which is one of the contact sports banned.

“I believe by the time our leagues start probably, two to three players will be part of another friendly game. The non-invitation of the home-based players was not the fault of the players,” he said, adding that the NPFL still has some quality stars that can feature for the Eagles whether in the friendlies or during the qualifiers for both the AFCON and World Cup,” he stated.


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