Nigeria managed to earn just two points in the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers double header against Sierra Leone.
This is a disappointing feat coming from the three-time African champions.
While African giants like Senegal, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali and Cameroon have already booked their place in the tournament in 2022, Nigeria is still struggling to qualify after being held back by the underdog, Sierra Leone.
However, if there is one thing that we have learnt from the last two games, it is that Nigerian foreign based players are seriously overrated.
With the exception of Alex Iwobi, the rest of the squad were seen struggling for form, particularly Kevin Akpoguma who it was painfully obvious, didn’t understand the African style of play.
And so this begs the question – what happened to the home-based players?
Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr has already made it clear that Nigerian home-based players are a no go area for him saying it will be difficult for them to break into the senior team because they are not strong enough.
Rohr has argued that foreign-based players are better options due to their exposure to other nationals in their various clubs. But recent events have shown that they are not. Not really.
Although, part of the German tactician’s new contract is to recruit more home-based players into the squad, he has yet to make any move in that regard, insisting that no one can tell him who to call-up for Nigeria duty.
This may turn out to be Rohr’s undoing as his more favored abroad boys are not doing any better in the squad.
Let’s not forget it was Nigerian home-based players who put the country in the world map of football in the first place.
The likes of Rashidi Yekini (Shooting Stars), Daniel Amokachi (Ranchers Bees), Victor Ikpeba (ACB Lagos), Sunday Oliseh (Julius Berger), Jay Jay Okocha (Enugu Rangers), Kanu Nwankwo (Heartland Football Club) etc were all products of the Nigerian local football before they were snatched out by Europe.
In fact, the golden years of Nigerian football were made possible by the local boys.
If they could achieve something much despite the challenges of the time, why couldn’t the home-based players of this generation be utilized to make even better achievements?
What makes Rohr think only foreign-based players can give the desired result in the Super Eagles?
There was a time when foreign based Nigerians begged to be in the Super Eagles squad. But today, the reverse is the case. And that has posed a real problem in Nigerian football, especially on the international level.
Legendary Nigerian Captain, Henry Nwosu affirmed this as he said:
“In our days, most of the players in the Green Eagles were home-based players and it was not easy for foreign-based players to break into the team because the competition was high. There were more naturally talented domestic players in the Green Eagles squad then.
“These days, we don’t have many homes grown players in the Super Eagles, which is not right as a country growing in soccer.
“For Nigeria to get it right again, more emphasis should be placed on discovering talents from the grassroots. I was discovered from a school programme before I got to Secondary School. I captained my school team and ended up playing for the national team.
“This is how some of my other team mates were discovered. Natural talents have to be discovered from the grassroots and taught the rudiments of the game from their formative stage.
“This way it will not be easy for the foreign-based players to break into the team. The competitive spirit will be high.”
Nwosu has said it all. For Nigeria to create a team to beat like in the 80s and 90s, home-based players should be included. Other wise, the African giants will continue to be disgraced by underdogs.