I read an interesting article by Colin Udoh on the current invitation of players for the two friendly matches slated for March 23 and 27 against Senegal and Burkina Faso.
Udoh made an insinuation on why Gernot Rohr left out players from the Nigeria Professional Football League; the German manager supposedly wants European-schooled players, and the criteria made some sense.
But with common sense comes questions, especially in a democracy and freedom of speech.
I watched the UEFA Europa league match between Gent and Genk [watch the t and k]; two Belgian sides, and the interesting part was Gent started with two Nigerians – Anderson Esiti and little-known Samuel Kalu. On the bench was established Super Eagles forward, Moses Simon, and Rabiu Ibrahim while William-Troost Ekong was not dressed.
Kalu, 19, started on the right flank scored Gent’s equalizer and then drew a foul for a penalty that was missed. Esiti was shown two yellow cards while Ibrahim, a full international, was tidy in possession. With pride, I saw four Nigerian players on the pitch for this Belgian side before Esiti got his second yellow card on 84 minutes.
Now, the question for Rohr would be – why choose a player like Noah Bazee, who has never been in Nigeria over a Kalu that was born and bred here before jetting out for the Golden Fleece?
Bazee has made 13 appearances for Bundesliga 2 outfit, Hannover 96, scored once and provided five assists compared to Kalu, who transferred to Gent from Slovak side, Trencin in January. The right-sided forward has since played nine times for his new club, scored two goals and provided four assists.
This is just a simple comparison even though one has to quickly add the caveat – Rohr has the responsibility to choose players for his squad based on qualities that only he and his technical team understand. Our question is based simply on the premise that form and fitness are the supposed prerequisites for being invited to the Nigeria national team.
Esiti, 22 is a combative midfielder, who has been in Europe since 2013, which going by Rohr’s supposed preference disqualifies him but qualifies William-Troost Ekong, who has started only two games and been on the substitutes bench thrice.
At the end of the day, the buck still stops on Rohr’s table and he must earn the (scarce) dollars he is being paid.
As long as the target is doing well, most Nigerians will not care if all 11 players hail from Abiala, but they must be proud to wear the green jersey of the motherland. That is all we can ask for.
Goalkeepers: Carl Ikeme (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England); Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United, South Africa); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (FC Ifeanyi Ubah)
Defenders: Leon Balogun (FSV Mainz 05, Germany); William Paul Ekong (KAA Gent, Belgium); Kenneth Omeruo (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Uche Henry Agbo (Granada FC, Spain); Abdullahi Shehu (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Musa Muhammed (FC Zeljeznicar, Bosnia Herzegovina); Tyronne Ebuehi (ADO Den Haag, The Netherlands); Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Gijon, Spain); Kingsley Madu (Zulte Waregem, Belgium); Chidozie Awaziem (FC Porto, Portugal)
Midfielders: Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor FC, Turkey); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense, Portugal); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Leicester City, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City, England); Moses Simon (KAA Gent, Belgium); Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England); Alex Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Isaac Success (Watford FC, England); Noah Joel Bazee (Hannover 96, Germany); Victor Osimhen (Wolfsburg FC, Germany)
*Osimhen has been replaced with Kayode Olanrewaju, who plays for Austria Vienna.