The North Africans have been doing it for years, then French-speaking sub Saharan countries joined in. For Nigeria, was something that previous NFF administrations flirted with, but now, under Amaju Pinnick, it is about to be elevated into a full blown policy, vigorously pursued. But is it the right step to take?
It is crucial to follow the universal pattern when trying to build anything worthwhile. These patterns usually fit a principle of life; and these principles work, no matter who applies it. Therefore, to build, you start small and you take care of the little things. The principle is: when you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves! In building the senior Nigeria national teams (Men and Women) we need to take care of the home league, grow it and maximize their financial potential.
While it is within the rights of the Nigeria Football Federation to invite footballers who are born to Nigerian parents, it will likely accelerate the death of the Nigeria league. The move is akin to building a pyramid upside down with the tip bottom and base up: the structure will eventually totter and keel. The national team will look shiny and glittery from afar, but it would not be built on any solid foundation. They will likely win…but only for a while.
A national team built like that will encourage drain; players will look to escape the home league, and will do so at the earliest opportunity because attention of the fans will be focused on the national team. It will discourage sponsorship of the home league since the best are leaving, and fans are not watching. Sponsorship is all about exposure to an audience, and all eyes will be on the glittering national team.
A national team built on expats will encourage waste, it is simple arithmetic: it requires more money to fly in 22 players, than to fly in 10 or 12, and source the rest from the home league. Every game needs a maximum of 14 players that will be active, the rest are standby. 14 imported is the ideal, the remaining eight should be home-sourced, but where will we find them when they’re all bailing?
Finally, the current treatment of the Women national team, The Super Falcons will likely torpedo that ambition…young people of Nigerian parentage will be aghast, and wondering what lies in their future, should they heed Nigeria’s call.
It’s a good feeling when your national team has an array of foreign-born superstars and they’re wining matches. But we must understand: this is only a short-term fix that will have disastrous long-term consequences.