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‘Ighalo’s recall will create bad blood in Eagles’ attack’

By Adamu Abuh (Abuja) and Alex Monye (Lagos)
06 November 2021   |   4:06 am
Former Nigeria junior international, Oladimeji Lawal has said that the invitation of Saudi Arabia-based Odion Ighalo by coach Gernot Rohr for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Liberia and Cape Verde will create bitter rivalry in the striking position of the Super Eagles.

Nigeria’s forward Odion Ighalo (C) celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Semi-final football match between Algeria and Nigeria at the Cairo International stadium in Cairo on July 14, 2019. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

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Former Nigeria junior international, Oladimeji Lawal has said that the invitation of Saudi Arabia-based Odion Ighalo by coach Gernot Rohr for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Liberia and Cape Verde will create bitter rivalry in the striking position of the Super Eagles.

Speaking with The Guardian, Lawal said that Rohr’s decision to recall Ighalo after two years of his retirement from national duties was a clear sign that Nigerian football is not developing.

He wondered why Rohr would recall Ighalo despite the excellent performance of stars like Victor Osimhen and other young strikers making waves in their respective clubs abroad.

Lawal stated that Nigeria’s quest to re-discover her position in Africa and world football is the ability of the technical crew to fish out new talents to replace ageing players.

“Sincerely speaking, I was surprised with the invitation of Ighalo for the World Cup qualifiers after his retirement from national duty. As an ex-player, I think the invitation will create bad blood among the players. It is the prayer of every young footballer to take over from his senior colleagues who have retired from team. But a situation where the coach will recall the older player at a point when the younger ones are beginning to stabilise in the squad will surely affect the physique of the younger one.”

Lawal said: “We have a lot of young players who are making waves in their respective clubs overseas. Does it mean that Rohr cannot get a credible striker from those clubs instead of sticking to Ighalo? Apart from Osimhen, there are other quality young attackers in the Super Eagles, and they need encouragement instead of recalling Ighalo from retirement.

“With Ighalo’s return, most of the young strikers will not see regular playing time in the Super Eagles. And it will not give them the zeal to go the extra mile to give their best in the team.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate committee on sports and youths development, Senator Obinna Ogba, says the decision to recall Ighalo for this month’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers is a step in the right direction.

Ogba, who fielded questions from reporters at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, insist that Ighalo presence will surely strengthen the Super Eagles.

“A team needs somebody who can motivate other players in the camp and in the field of play. Since Austin Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo left, Nigeria has been lacking that motivation. You must have to get a player that would really around the player. Maybe the coach may have discovered that since the absence of Ighalo something is missing. And that is why he brought him back,” he said.

He disclosed that the Minister of Finance had released funds to offset arrears of allowances owed to Super Eagles ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.