With just a few days to Super Eagles’ ‘make or mar’ 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Squirrel of Benin and the Crocodile of Lesotho on March 27 and 30 respectively, there has been great concern from Nigerians due to the withdrawal of foreign-based players from the games as a result of Covid-19 travel ban imposed by some European countries.
The ban which has directly or indirectly affected Nigeria’s preparation for the crucial game should be seen as a wake-up call for Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr on the need to also monitor the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) in a bid to discover a few players that may be useful to the progress of the senior national team.
Besides, the refusal of some of the European clubs not to release key players of the Super Eagles is also a message to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on the need to develop and splash more money on the league so as to make it attractive to the players. By so doing, the majority of them won’t be desperate to travel abroad in search of a contract regardless of what the terms and conditions spell out for them.
It is also paramount to know that some of the domestic league players often misuse the opportunity of playing for the Super Eagles as they immediately board the next available flight to Europe once they don the ‘Green and White’ jersey.
Recall that in the past that a few of them will travel to Europe to undergo trials for clubs that are relatively unknown all in the name of being tagged as foreign-based players, thereby putting serious question marks on their progress or integration into the senior national team.
It is shocking to also note that since the arrival of Gernot Rohr as Super Eagles coach, NPFL players have played a limited role in the team, with the exception of Ikechukwu Ezenwa who has always been among the three goalkeepers invited by the German tactician.
However, should Rohr be blamed for neglecting the NPFL players despite the fact that there are quality talents in the league?
Early last year, Rohr once complained of their attitude, where he said, “We invite them and then immediately, they are going to Europe. It is wonderful for them but maybe not for us.”
Could this have also contributed to why Rohr has failed to extend an invitation to the domestic league players?
Rohr’s preference for selecting players who play in Europe is no secret. The German would call up a player from a second-tier club in Europe before selecting one from the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL).
The whole picture may change for good on March 27 and 30 if only a few invited ‘Home-based’ players prove everything right by smoking out the Squirrel of Benin and Crocodiles of Lesotho to help Nigeria pick the ticket for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations slated for Cameroon.
There can be no better opportunity than the one they has been given to them by the German tactician to showcase their talents and cover up every loophole in the team if called upon to face Benin or Lesotho.
By and large, the NPFL players must change their attitude of rushing to seek a contract in Europe once they represent the senior national team if they hope to gain Rohr’s trust.
By Augustine Akhilomen