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Monitor how players are chosen for youth teams, Lawal urges NFF

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Nigeria will continue to stutter in international youth football championships if the selection of players to the teams is not strictly monitored to ensure the right players are chosen to represent the country, former junior international, Dimeji Lawal, has said.

He argued that Nigeria would be saved the type of agony it experienced at the just concluded WAFU Zone B U-20 Championship, where Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire eliminated the Flying Eagles at the group stage if the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) verified the quality of players selected into the nation’s junior teams.

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Nigeria drew 1-1 with Cote d’Ivoire and lost 0-1 to Ghana to exit the competition, which served as a qualifier for the African U-20 Nations Cup. The U-20 Nations Cup will determine the countries to represent Africa at next year’s U-20 World Cup.

Lawal, who recalled that Nigeria’s international youth players were selected from the grassroots, schools and the leagues in the past, said the pattern ensured players were selected on merit and not influenced by any academy.

According to Lawal, “the recent performance of the U-20 national team in Benin Republic shows that Nigerian football is completely falling apart.

“The issue is that grassroots football is dead in the country. There is no competition to pick players from schools and in the streets. These were areas where most of us that played for Nigeria in the past were picked from without sentiments.

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“These days, it is now by connection, agents are also everywhere using money to influence coaches to pick players not suitable to be in the cadet teams.”

He lamented that the youths don’t have anywhere to play and hone their skills, saying, “Churches, mosques, and schools have been built on every available space. It was not like this before; talents, who later became stars, were picked from streets and nurtured to stardom.

“Nigeria’s junior teams will continue to be embarrassed at international assignments when things are not put in the right perspective.”

The ‘Dammam Miracle’ star also queried the way teams are currently prepared for international competitions, saying that everything is shrouded in secrecy.

“For any team to successfully represent the country at major championships, there must be coordinated camping and training of the players.

“They should also play friendly matches for Nigerians to assess them before they leave the country.

Again, grassroots football must be well organised to expose and develop talented players for the country,” he added.

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