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Ikpe Ekong blames Nigeria’s football struggles on dearth of developmental programmes

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Former Super Eagles Star, Ikpe Ekong

Former Super Eagles Star, Ikpe Ekong, believes Nigerian football would have risen above the current level if the managers of the sport maintained the grassroots programmes that served the country well in the past.

The former Italy-based star adds that current national team coaches choose to focus more on players born abroad rather than their home-based counterparts points to the low level of football development.

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Ekong said managers of Nigerian football have a lot to do to raise the standard of the game, adding that home-based players should be groomed properly to get them at the same level as their Europe-based counterparts.

Worried by the paucity of grassroots football projects in recent times, Ekong warned that if the situation were not arrested soon, the country would continue to rely on overseas-born players for the national teams.

The Reggiana of Italy and GAIS of Sweden former star, who is now a pastor, wondered how outstanding players would be discovered when there was no clear process of grooming and monitoring youngsters across the federation.

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“We need to put a good structure in place to revamp Nigeria’s grassroots football development culture. That way, coaches will have enough quality players to work with.

“I was developed in Nigeria through different grassroots championships. My journey to stardom started at the grassroots level at Ajegunle.

“In the past, we had street competitions, as well as school competitions, where coaches picked football talents and nurtured them to stardom.

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“Some renowned Nigerian players we celebrate today were discovered here at home at different grassroots competitions before they moved abroad to enhance their career. I don’t have anything against overseas-born Nigerian stars, but we have to put things in the right place in the country to ensure the gap is reduced when it comes to team selection.

This will be achieved through grassroots development programmes. If this is not done, Nigerian football would continue to face challenges,” he said.

On the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers, Ekong said Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, needs to do more to build a formidable team for the matches, warning the coaches should take the games seriously because ‘there are no more pushovers in African football.’

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