Scout for gifted Super Eagles in NPFL, Ekpo urges administrators
Following the Super Eagles’ ouster from Qatar 2022, former international, Friday Ekpo, has declared that it was time the nation’s football administrators shifted focus away from players of Nigerian descent by also developing and nurturing domestic league players good enough to play for the Super Eagles.
Nigeria last Tuesday lost the World Cup ticket to Ghana by the away goal rule. The two-legged encounter, played at the Kumasi Stadium, Ghana, and the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja respectively, ended 1-1 on aggregate, leaving millions of soccer-loving Nigerians gutted.
Speaking to The Guardian during the week, Ekpo said he was yet come to terms with the reality that the Eagles will not be at the World Cup in Qatar, this year.
“I am still in shock that Nigeria will not be at the World Cup. Though the boys did all they could, unfortunately their efforts were not enough for us to scale the hurdle.
“In the match, it appeared the Ghanaians even knew us more than we knew ourselves. How can you explain that a team that could not beat us in Ghana will now come and stop us from scoring the needed goals to book qualification. This is so sad.
“What is even more painful about the whole thing was that everyone had predicted the Eagles were going to the World Cup after we played a goalless draw in the first leg at the Kumasi Stadium in Ghana,” he said.
The former Eagles’ midfield maestro then added that it was high time the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) looked inward and got players with potentials in the Nigeria Professional League (NPFL) who could be nurtured as bedrock of the Eagles rather than depending totally on foreign-based players.
“To even start with, how many of our foreign based players are actually playing frequently in their clubs in Europe? There are very few of them. Yet, we bring them to play for us. This is why I keep saying we need to always invite players who are in form, and play week in, week out for their clubs in Europe. Many of those we bring here to play for us are benchwarmers. That is why we also need to look inward for the best NPFL players whether the league is in session or not, to serve as bedrock for Eagles.
“Unfortunately, we’ve always looked down on home-based players, as if nothing good can ever come out of them. In the league games that I have watched this season, I will still give it thumbs up any time. If only we can be patient to look for these players with promises, they will give us their very best because they also want to make names for themselves.
“With our exit from the World Cup now, we have learnt a big lesson in a bitter way. Not going to the World Cup is something that will not go down well with a lot of Nigerians, but we have to take it as sportsmen and learn to organise ourselves next time,” he stated.