Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has a bigger responsibility after his contract was extended for another two years till 2022 – scout for players from the domestic league who can truly be part of your team.
In his four years in charge of Nigeria, Rohr has used players from the NPFL as “training materials”.
So, the likes of Junior Lokosa, Ifeanyi Anaemena, Stephen Eze, Ibrahim Alhassan ‘Muazzam’, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Stephen Odey and Chisom Egbuchulam have been called up only to fall short of cutting it when pitched against the ‘big boys’.
A long time ago, one of Rohr’s trusted assistants complained to me about the gulf in class between the players in the local league and their counterparts from Europe.
He said it was like daylight and night.
He further explained that the players based at home lack the basics like kicking the ball and passing the ball as well as the fact that they are tactically bereaved.
“Can you believe that they cannot cope with simple tactical drills?” he asked rather rhetorically.
“Obviously, they are not being put through properly at their clubs and so we have to almost teach them from the scratch when they come to the national team.”
They are also serious questions about their true ages and how quick they can adapt to new skill sets to underline the maxim that the old dog can hardly learn new tricks.
The reality is that the NPFL is not a competition that rewards excellence and as such it would be asking too much for such a league to produce players who can hold their own at full international level.
The integrity as well as standards of the league have long been compromised by the flip-flops of the League Management Company (LMC), which was meant to run the competition as a business concern, but has spectacularly failed to do so.
The LMC owe their being to the so-called club owners, who previously ran their league, and as such it cannot afford to go against the main interests of its benefactors.
What this means is that sub-standard home grounds are approved for league matches, hooliganism continues to be treated with kid gloves by the LMC and so-called licensing requirements for clubs are simply not adhered to.
The consequence is that we have a league where old players are recycled season after season, young players are not promoted and the coaches, who ought to guide these old or young players, have failed to do so because they are not good enough.
Unless the entire architecture of the league is redesigned, it will be a tall dream for such a competition to produce players who can add value to the Super Eagles.
Rohr in his crazed desperation to hang on to his post has agreed to walk on water by integrating the league players to his team.
And this was the same person who was very clear that “Nigeria’s best players play their football in Europe” and that he doesn’t know of a coach who will not play his best players.
That was why he has spread his scouting dragnet across Europe for players of Nigerian descent – Bryan Idowu, Joe Aribo, Ola Aina, Maduka Okoye, Kingsley Ehizibue, Cyriel Dessers and counting.
The major difference between these “oyibo” players and their NPFL counterparts is that they learnt the basics in their formative years under proper guidance of trained coaches and that explains why they have added value to the Eagles in no time, while local players at least under Rohr have yet to.
If only to keep his dream job, Rohr will attempt to give the home-based players a more decent run in his team going forward.
But in the end, despite all the recent NFF and ministerial ultimatums, the country’s best players are not in a bastardised league that has lost its purpose, direction as well as quality.