THE LONG RUNNING debate about the composition of the Super Eagles is back on the front burner, following the events at the national team camp last weekend in London, England.
Gernot Rohr's fully foreign-based selection held the Teranga Lions of Senegal to a 1-1 draw in the first of two planned friendly games, but the second game had to be called off because Burkina Faso could not secure travel visas for several players. That prompted Rohr to throw the Eagles camp door wide open to virtually any England-based player with Nigerian parentage as he (presumably) sought to widen his pool of selectables. By the time the camp closed after a practice match between Team 'A' and Team 'B' which ended in another 1-1 draw, the Super Eagles of Nigeria were looking more like the Super Eagles of England!
Naturally, soccer fans and journalists who had been upset that Rohr didn't call up any home-based player in his original 23-man squad are now even more livid that he allowed every Tom, Dick and Harry (read Ola Aina, Chuba Akpom and Nathan Oseni) into the London camp simply because they were born, live or play in England. Where is the fairness to the home boys like league top scorer, Stephen Odey, they ask?
Last week, I expressed my support for Rohr's decision to call up an entirely foreign-based squad if he felt they would perform better that the home boys. He is not the first Eagles coach to behave in this manner and he won't be the last for a number of reasons that should be quite obvious to everyone by now. But even I was flabbergasted when I heard about Nigerian fathers gate-crashing the Eagles camp in London to announce that their sons were ready to play for our senior national team. Just like that?
It is wrong to admit players (foreign or local-based) to camp, hand them jerseys and cap them just because they happened to be living next door to the Eagles camp or because they had their fathers in tow. Players should be allowed in camp only on the invitation of the coach who must have seen them play prior or got reports about them from his scouts. Foreign-born players desirous of representing Nigeria should only inform the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) about their availability in writing, then leave the coach to take a decision on their invitation devoid of any external pressures. NFF president Amaju Pinnick, please take note!
That said, I'm not in the mood for the endless argument on the home-based versus foreign-based brouhaha. Let whoever is our coach at any given time have the final say on player selection and swim or sink with his choices. All I care about is that proper procedures should be adhered to.
Finally, I hope the Senegal friendly and the bonding session that followed would benefit the Eagles when they face South Africa in their opening 2019 AFCON qualifier in June. In the final analysis, that is all that matters.