Breathtaking and memorable actions, as well as huge crowds at match venues, have since overshadowed the uncertainty that characterized preparation for the ongoing Nigeria Professional Football League.
The players may still be agonizing over unsettled welfare matters that suggest huge salary arrears. But not the fans who throng match venues to enjoy the thrills twice a week.
Nigeria’s top league football is truly on the mend after years of battery at the hands of clueless administrators. At the latest count, the league’s leading goal scorer has inched nearer two-digit figure.
Curiously, the Nigeria Football Federation does not seem to share in this new wave of enthusiasm or is not primed to make huge capital of it.
When the NFF released the list of invited Super Eagles’ players ahead of the two friendly games against Senegal and Burkina Faso in London on March 23 and 27, only one player was called from the NPFL in the 24-man list. Interestingly, the FC IfeanyiUbah goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezinwa, is a familiar face in the Eagles’ set up. So, it could be well said that no new player was called from the domestic league.
Even more curious is that several of the invited players who ply their trade in Europe are first time invitees with whom Eagles’ gaffer Gernot Rohr hopes to build the team to a formidable side. No explanation has come from the NFF for the NPFL players’ snub, except for a feeble remark from Eagles’ Assistant Coach Salisu Yusuf that he was scouting the players for the upcoming African Nations Championship (CHAN) 2018 qualifiers which he will be expected to take charge.
To rub it in that several of the invited Europe-based players for the friendly games have not been tested is, to say the least, unacceptable. It simply attests to the unfolding reality that the NPFL players have no future in the Eagles unless and until they venture out to Europe or elsewhere; a serious indictment on the NFF’s Technical Committee whose duty is to monitor players in the domestic league with a view to motivating them to maximize their potential in the Super Eagles.
The foregoing brings up the question: how much is the NPFL player’s worth?
Prior to the ongoing season, the League Management Company (LMC) had embarked on a tour of Spain with a selection of players across the NPFL clubs whereupon the players were exposed to facilities in the Spanish set up and a couple of friendly matches were arranged to enable the players showcase their talent.
“It was a huge success,” LMC boss, Mallam Shehu Dikko, said of the tour, adding, “We will build on this success in the years ahead.” Deals were also struck with Spanish elite league officials as all stakeholders looked forward to a rewarding future between La Liga and LMC.
It must be, therefore, that the NFF and LMC are not on the same page with regard to upgrading NPFL players to the Super Eagles and this reality will remain for as long as the NFF makes it look tenable.
It is even surprising that Dikko has not appeared to make the NPFL-to-Super Eagles progression for the home league players the LMC’s cardinal principle. That Dikko is working hard to improve the league has not been in doubt, thanks to series of innovation that has seen outsiders pay more than a passing interest as was the case in recent years.
He has also consistently called on the local fans to throng the stadia, telling the fans ‘this league is your own as it is our own’. And the fans have responded positively, motivating the LMC to schedule what it has christened “Friday Night Football” that has seen match-ups of title contenders with capacity crowds. How best then should Dikko compensate the fans other then push for the “local stars” to feature in the Super Eagles?
Granted that the drafting of the NPFL players to the Eagles would have everything to do with the NFF’s policy on scouting players for the national team and, for that matter, players so scouted locally would only play a few games for the Eagles before venturing to Europe or elsewhere for greener pasture.
Yet, the LMC still has to weigh in corporate sponsorship that would ultimately rub off on the NPFL purse and players’ improved welfare package in the event of considerable increase in the number of the NPFL players in the Eagles.
Whatever the policy of the NFF on the Eagles’ composition, nebulous as such policy seems at the moment, it simply would not be justifiable that players who are active week-in and week-out in the NPFL are shut of the national team to favour their Europe-based counterparts, some of who barely get playing times or are still struggling to find their feet.