Nigeria will have to battle an army of overseas-based professionals when they begin the defence of the U23 AFCON championship they won four years ago in Senegal.
And this is despite the fact that many foreign clubs have refused to release their players for the competition.
The Nigeria U23s, who have begun training in Ismailia, Egypt, will open their title defence on Saturday, November 8 against Cote d’Ivoire, who boast of 18 pros who play their football outside their country.
Coach Imama Ampakabo’s team will also take on Zambia, who parade eight foreign stars, while South Africa will parade three overseas pros.
Imama has selected 15 overseas pros for the tournament, which will produce three teams to represent Africa at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
He would have had more pros, but some European clubs refused to release the affected players, maintaining the tournament is not on the international calendar and so they are not obliged to do so.
In Group A, Cameroon will be represented by 18 pros who play outside the country, Mali have 17 pros and Ghana will showcase 11 pros.
Interestingly, all 21 players for hosts Egypt play their football at home.