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Outbursts as stakeholders decry Rohr’s interim list for Eagles’ friendlies

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Super Eagles during training at the Russia 2018 World Cup<br />

Fault Al Ahly’s Junior Ajayi’s Omission, Question Invited NPFL Players

Followers of the senior national football team — Super Eagles — have denounced the provisional list of players Coach Gernot Rohr for the friendlies against Cameroun and Austria planned by the Nigeria Football Federation preparatory to the World Cup qualifiers slated for September.

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The sports ministry, last year, had mandated the Nigeria Football Federation to overhaul the Eagles’ technical and administrative structure for better results. And also part of the directive was for Rohr to visit venues of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) games, with a view to featuring at least three to four home-based players in the Eagles.

Speaking to The Guardian, yesterday, some fans, who decried the coach’s list, said that the majority of the names picked from the NPFL for the friendlies were not a true reflection of talents that abound in the domestic league. They also wondered why the list is dominated by the same foreign legion and questioned the exclusion of Egypt’s Al Ahly’s striker, Junior Ajayi.

“At a time when you expected Rohr to have a rethink on the number of home-based players that should be invited from our NPFL for Super Eagles’ matches since they are friendlies, you still see him go for these players from Europe. Even the mandate given to him by the sports ministry was never adhered to because nobody saw him watch any of our league games for good players, except on television.

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“So, how come he was able to pick four players from the league he never watched? Apart from the Enyimba FC’s forward, Anayo Iwuala, whom I think merits his inclusion, I cannot say the same of the two goalkeepers picked. Everyone knows that Rivers’ United Goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai, remains the best in the league and yet they keep on recycling a certain goalkeeper, who is not even among the top five in the NPFL.

“Our football administrators just do things the way they like by allowing Rohr to get away with a lot of flaws and they expect us to soar high without our precious talents from the domestic league. What happened to the midfielders, defenders in our domestic league? If this is what has been happening in the past, players like Finidi (George), (Daniel) Amokachi, (Emmanuel) Amuneke and the rest of them wouldn’t have been discovered. They took advantage of the opportunity that came their way.

“But now what do they do, they keep on inviting players who were rejected by countries of their birth. If these players were considered good enough will they come and play for us? This is a shame we find ourselves where we invite players, who are benchwarmers in their clubs in Europe. It became worse when we even invite a player from Cyprus. To me, this is an embarrassment to our football,” said one Akomolafe Deji.

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Also expressing his disgust over the list was one Emeka Chukwu. He said, “I was at the National Sports Festival held in Edo State and I saw talents that would wow any football enthusiast and yet one coach is saying we don’t have talents in the country. If that is the case, how then did George Finidi enter the Eagles and pinned a shirt for himself? And this same Finidi went to Europe and strolled into Ajax’s first team. Even Amokachi played for the Eagles from a local club amid foreign-based players. Forget the one people are saying that the league was no longer being organised like in the past. The emphasis here is talents being exposed to the world.

“There is one Junior Ajayi, who plays for Egypt’s Al Ahly. At a time he was picked for the best player award on the continent and yet nobody thinks he should be part of the Eagles. After all, Amuneke won the best African Footballer of the Year award playing for Egypt’s Zamalek. At times, I asked myself if Rohr has not joined some former Eagles coaches who succumbed to pressure from football agents, who tried to market their players by engaging them in the Eagles’ team? As far as I am concerned, Ahmed Musa is not in that listed team on merit because he has not done anything to merit the quota given to NPFL players. How can someone sign for Kano Pillar and has a clause not to play in away games for the club,” he said.

Responding to views of fans, a depressed former international, Felix Owolabi, speaking to The Guardian, yesterday, said he is confounded why a coach would not give the domestic league players a chance, which he and others enjoyed playing for the national team from right from their local clubs, adding that the sole reliance on foreign-based players in international games was the reason for the slide in the growth of the country’s football.

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“I have said it times without number that the foundation on which this country was established had been destroyed. And so it becomes absolutely difficult for me at times to make an input about all the happenings in our sports, particularly the game of football that has made me.

“Until everybody realises that the Super Eagles of Nigeria is an identity that every individual irrespective of tribe, language and what have you must have an equal right, privilege and opportunity to be given leverage to play for his fatherland if found to be worthy. This was exactly the case in our days.

“I am, therefore, too perturbed about what is happening today in the same Eagles as you have pointed out. For me, if we can get the best legs from Kano, Ibadan or Enugu to represent Nigeria, so may it be. But in a situation where until you know an ‘oga’ at the top does not give a true reflection of a nation.

“And that is why today the country is facing myriads of challenges. Let’s give that player, Ajayi a chance for a sense of belonging and see what stuff he is made of. Incidentally, people like me were given a chance. I took advantage of that opportunity and today the rest is history. Most importantly, let us focus on a vibrant sports policy that will be backed by legislation for development and sustainability,” he stated.

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