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Much ado about Nigeria, Mexico friendly

Nigeria will engage Mexico in an international friendly encounter on Saturday (July 3) and the entire dynamics of the game is just funny since the match will be prosecuted by homebased players only. The only advantage in playing the game we can think of is the exposure of home-based players which is also a good avenue to prepare them for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) which, however, is not near.

The CHAN tournament was played earlier this year in Cameroon and the next edition would be in 2023. Thus it is a surprise that the NFF is setting up this friendly for the domestic league players at a time they do not need it. Before the next CHAN, some of the players going for the Mexico friendly would have gone abroad and will automatically no longer be eligible for the tournament.

We frown at the way Gernot Rohr has been talking about the match and we also question the reason why the federation and the coach are staging it with 100% domestic league players. Going forward, will Austin Eguavoen and the technical department have any influence on the Eagles’ A team? What is the motive of the friendly encounter with Mexico? No doubt, some money will be expended by the federation on logistics, tickets and bonuses but the match is of no value in reality.

The fixture itself is a quality encounter, but Nigeria’s approach leaves much to be desired. We are aware that Nigeria will have Cape Verde, Liberia and Central African Republic to contend with in the World Cup qualifiers which kick off in September, and we believe that should be the immediate priority but the coach and the NFF perhaps feel differently. It’s so strange to stage a match that has little or no consequence to the development of the game in the country. After this Mexico ‘experiment,’ Rohr should be made to always defend his list of invited players and also be made to be answerable to the technical department of the federation. That is the way forward.

The Nigeria Football Federation deserves full credit for the quality of friendly games being staged for the national teams in recent times. The Super Falcons were in the United States only recently for a four-nation tourney in which Nigeria played Jamaica, Portugal and the USA. It was a big one for the senior women’s national team. Shortly before then, the Super Eagles engaged Cameroon in back-to-back friendlies in Austria. Without evaluating the results of these matches, it is important to appreciate the efforts of the federation in keeping the national teams busy.

It is a good way of keeping the teams and the players in shape for the immediate tasks ahead of them continentally or globally. The Nigeria and Mexico international friendly is a rare one because it is not scheduled during the FIFA international window and this time the players plying their trade in the domestic league will be on parade for the country. According to the FIFA rankings, Mexico is 13th in the world while Nigeria is 32nd in the world. Interestingly, Mexico listed a strong team for the encounter but Nigeria has opted to feature the home-based players from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

The decision of the NFF and the overall template of the friendly encounter are issues that should disturb the average football follower. For now, the Super Eagles A players are on break and they are free to be part of the encounter. Whose decision was it to leave them out?

The World Cup qualifiers will start in roughly two months and it should have been a case of 50 per cent home-based and 50 per cent foreign pros just to further prepare for the Qatar 2022 Mundial. Some of the homebased players invited are Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland FC); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Olisa Ndah (Akwa United); Adekunle Adeleke (Abia Warriors); Tope Olusesi (Rangers International); Ifeanyi Anaemena (Rivers United); Christopher Nwaeze (Kwara United); Enyinnaya Kazie (Rivers United); Anthony Shimaga (Rangers International); Seth Mayi (Akwa United); Uche Nwasonaya (Plateau United); Samuel Nnoshiri (Katsina United); Ekundayo Ojo (Enyimba FC). Others are Anayo Iwuala (Enyimba FC); Stephen Jude (Kwara United); Ibrahim Olawoyin (Rangers International) and Sunday Adetunji of Rivers United. It was nice to have Ezenwa back in the fold as the team prepared in Abuja before heading out a few days ago for the match billed to take place in the USA. Eagles head coach, Rohr, has however, come out to explain that the invited players were picked by the head of Technical Department of the Federation, Eguavoen, and his assistant, Paul Aigbogun with further assistance from Salisu Yusuf and Imama Amakapabo, who are former assistants of Rohr. The head coach stated further that he would only play an advisory role in the forthcoming encounter. We charge the NFF to avoid wasting money on friendlies that are of no value. For us, the forthcoming trip to the USA is a jamboree of sorts for the team and it is sad. Nigeria is a strong footballing nation and surely deserves better.




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