There have been series of unconfirmed tales that it is football agents and not the Technical department of the Nigeria Football Federation that does the scouting for players that are selected into the Nigeria National Teams.
In fact some of the rumor mongers have gone on to allege that the agents don’t stop at scouting. They insist that the players selected for international assignments, be it the World Cup, the Nations Cup and even international friendlies, all are largely selected by agents…or at least these agents have a say in the selection process.
No, they didn’t say the agents select all the players; they just say that the coach picks his must-have players, the agents select the rest. And no, they were not clear about the process and means and reasons for this privilege, they just insist it happens.
While this may be a tale that is hard to believe, it is also difficult to be dismissed entirely. There have been instances where some players have emerged at the last minute and have been included in national teams (at all levels) to international competitions, and faded off almost immediately after. Some of these sudden-stars don’t even play major minutes at these tournaments.
Then there is the case of the goalkeepers invited for the Super Eagles friendlies next month.
One of the arguments the proponents of, “only the best players are good enough for Nigeria, and the best players are abroad” make when they want to dismiss those that play in the Nigeria League from any role in the Eagles, is “the Super Eagles is not a training ground and it is not a rehabilitation center”. These are valid points. The national teams, whether it is the age-grade or the full national team, should not be a place where players are put on display, to attract better deals from their clubs.
And that is why the case of these goalkeepers is troubling.
It is agreed that friendly matches like these are good to test new players; that is why the cry to select the stars of the Nigerian League to feature in these friendlies, so that they can pick up the nuances of international football. that argument is usually stonewalled by the one quoted above; Super Eagles, not training ground. But here we are.
Maduka Okoye was unknown and was not active for a major team, and was eligible for the U20 or U23 when he was selected to play for the Super Eagles. It can be argued that he snagged a move to Holland on the basis of that Super Eagles invitation; but he was on the bench in the friendly against Ukraine and came on for 27 minutes against Brazil, so we can say we know him.
Dele Alampasu made 13 appearances for a team in the Portuguese lower league in 2017, between 2016 and 2019 he made only one League and two Cup appearances appearance for Feirense in the Portuguese Liga. However, this term he has made six appearances for Ventspils in the Latvian League, and two in the Europa League, that’s a grand total of 24 games in the last four years. So, is his inclusion rehabilitation, training or window-dressing?
Then there is Matthew Yakubu the exciting prospect who is on the books of Sered in the Slovakian League. He was with the Nigeria U20 team at the training camp in Germany before they departed for the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland, and was also a part of the Nigeria U20 Team to the All Africa Games in Rabat the same year. And he seems to have made the number one shirt his, in his second season with Sered,
The point is; while the coach has the right to select whichever player he chooses for assignments, the goalpost should not be shifted in these matters of player selection. The Nigeria League has not restarted, so it is not reasonable to expect any player from that League to be selected. But, if allowances are made for some others who have not been consistent, to play for the national team, then the same should be made for players in the NPFL when the League resumes in full.
And yes, the odds are that these players may leave for teams abroad as soon as they make their debuts, if they are deemed good enough. But that’s the expectations; other talented players will take their place, and those ones too, when they reach that point, should also get their chances. The fact is that it is not every one who plays in a league that will turn out for the national team, but those who are good enough – when their current form dictates, should be given that chance, no matter where they are based.