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Home-based players deserve better treatment in Eagles camp, says Mfon Udoh

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Nigeria’s forward Odion Ighalo (L) vies for the ball with Madagascar’s defender Thomas Fontaine during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group B football match between Madagascar and Nigeria at the Alexandria Stadium on June 30, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Akwa United’s Striker, Mfon Udoh holds the record of the highest number of goals in a single Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) season with the 23 goals he scored for Enyimba in 2014 yet to be surpassed by any other player.

Udoh, who joined his hometown club, Akwa United last season, is still in the business of scoring goals, as he was the joint highest goal scorer (10 goals) in the abridged season.

Ordinarily, a striker with such a reputation should be a regular caller at the national team camp, but that has not been the case. He was once invited to the Super Eagles a couple of years ago, but he was ‘frustrated out’ of the team. He has never gotten another chance; and that is not because he has stopped scoring goals.

The issue 9s that home-based players hardly get a look into the senior national team.

Lamenting the frustration faced by home-based players in the national team, Udoh said the coaches believe that overseas-based players are better equipped for international football than those playing in Nigeria.

Speaking in Lagos at the weekend, Udoh said the situation has become such that even when home-based players called to the senior national team, they are apprehensive that they would be judged on equal terms with their foreign-based counterparts.

According to Udoh, the Nigerian league has enough quality players that can compete favourably with their foreign-based counterparts if given due recognition and equal treatment in camp.

Udoh praised the late Stephen Keshi for home-based players the chance to vie for shirts in the Super Eagles, saying that decision helped the country to win the 2013 African Cup of Nations.

The former Enyimba captain also charged clubs’ managements to improve the welfare of their players if they desired to get the best from them.

“I can say without fear of contradiction that with my experience as a domestic player invited to the Super Eagles camp, there is no equal opportunity given to the home-based players to compete with their foreign counterparts.

“Each time you go there, you are apprehensive because any mistake you make means you are out. But if a foreign-based player makes such mistakes he is given another chance. It is the value system.

“It is not that the domestic players don’t have what it takes to fight for shirts in the Super Eagles. It is just that the system is tilted against them.

“In the Nigerian system, when you attend Harvard University and another person attends University of Calabar, they both have the same qualification, but the employer would not look at the personalities involved, he would pick the University of Harvard graduate because of the standard of education in that country. This also reflects in football, where coaches look at the quality of the league rather than what the player can do.”

“When I was invited to the Super Eagles camp, Rohr’s only business with me was when we greeted, he did not show any interest in me like he did to the foreign-based players. I guess I was invited based on the media call that I was good enough to be in the Super Eagles.”

On the on-going African Cup of Nations, Udoh said the coach picked players he believes could deliver for him, adding, “We need to give the Super Eagles all the required support to excel at the competition.”

He also pleaded with the League Management Company to put the Nigeria league on television, saying the visibility would attract more awareness to the league.


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