IKENWA NNABUOGOR reckons Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr will have a lot more talent from the Nigeria Professional Football League to pick from, judging by what Enyimba winger Anayo Iwuala showed with the country’s team…
It seemed the good old days of players from the home front competing with the foreign-based players has finally come when Enyimba winger Anayo Iwuala grabbed his golden chance with both feet when he was thrown into the deep end in the double Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho late last month.
The diminutive former Delta Force ace surprised even himself with his impressive performances in Porto-Novo and before the home fans at Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
Iwuala did not show any nerves when he came on in Porto-Novo and even missed a chance at goal that would have crowned his debut game in glory and thereby force Rohr to open more doors for players in the domestic league.
The 22-year old had convinced Rohr well enough to hand him his second cap in the dead-rubber encounter against the Crocodiles from Lesotho and it appears he has come to stay.
Iwuala acted his well-crafted script well much to the admiration of the “senior” boys from Europe with the Eagles’ livewire Victor Osihmen proclaiming him a “baller”, a local parlance for a very good player.
So, where does Iwuala go from here?
From all indications, he’s already in bed with Rohr and by implication, he’s still very much in the Rohr’s Eagles at least for now, unless he digs his own grave, by switching off his Eagles’ lights even before they had been lit.
Suitors from overseas courted him on account of his two-game wonder with his country’s national team and his breathtaking CAF Confederation Cup performance in the group game against Algeria’s Entente Setif further alerted more interests.
Though Enyimba’s €1 million valuation of him may appear laughable for interested clubs, Iwuala is certainly on his way to greater heights in Europe and it is just a matter of time.
But could this performance have opened Rohr’s eyes to start believing in the NPFL players he had earlier turned a blind eye to?
Rohr has maintained that Nigeria’s best players were in Europe and saw little or no need for local players.
But a combination of the Covid-19 Pandemic-forced withdrawals and Iwuala’s encouraging showing in the AFCON qualifiers may have got the 67-year old Franco-German having a rethink.
Just few seasons ago, Iwuala was an NLO player with Delta Force and pronto, he forced his way to national reckoning just in his very first season in the NPFL.
In truth, you can take a long walk way back in time to recall a player whose feat was like Iwuala’s, a very clear indication that something very worthwhile could come from the NPFL.
Will Iwuala open more doors for his contemporaries fighting for relevance in the NPFL and of course, an escape route to Europe?
Talents abound no doubt, but a safer and quicker route to national and international relevance for the home front players is the national cadet team or the CHAN Eagles which many have springboarded on to take their game beyond Nigeria.
Opportunities direct from the NPFL to Super Eagles are practically slim and it appears Iwuala will change all that, but it will take something extraordinary from local boys to hold their own in the Super Eagles.
But are the NPFL stars ready for this Iwuala challenge thrown at them?
The standard of the local league may have taken a huge dip compared to the 80s and 90s when players were sourced from the local league, but a few more Iwuala should be lurking around for Rohr to pounce on.
Rohr got to get down to work and unearth them and he will be remembered for such legacy when he moves on, just like Clemens Westerhoff is still remembered.