Nigerias future in home players, says coach
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has been increasingly using local players to defend the country’s colours on the international scene. He has been severely criticised for the method in the past, especially with the presence of a vast and renowned Nigerian legion abroad. Nonetheless, he is determined to pursue his goal.
“I am doing my best to ensure we have a follow-up system after the older players have gone. Yakubu Ayengbeni, Osaze Odewingie, Mikel Obi and others are still part of the team. I am giving other players opportunity to prove their worth, especially home-based players,” Keshi was quoted as saying by Nigerian newspaper Vanguard Saturday.
The 50-year-old coach took over Nigeria in November 2011 after the failure of the Super Eagles to reach the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2012. In his reshuffles of the squad he has been builidng the confidence of players from the Nigerian league in friendly games. Some of them made it to first team, like defender Chibuzor Okonkwo, and midfielders Ossai Uche and Ikechukwu Ibenegbu.
“In the next couple of years, they (Osaze, Yak and Mikel) could leave the national team and when we don’t have replacement for them, we would start crying for their (the home-based players) inclusion. Home-based players are like the future of tomorrow, and while In Togo, Mali and other countries, I used local players to achieve my aims, and it was successful.
“So, using them to pursue my goal for both the Nations Cup and World Cup is not new to me, as it has worked for me. In other countries, they have more local players than foreign ones. You can see that the approach has been in existence and I am only trying to bring it into our system, which is necessary, especially for future purposes.”
Egypt has an impressive winning record of three-straight CAN titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010 with a squad of local-based players, including the likes of Mohamed Abou-Treika, Emad Meteb, Ahmed Fathi, Wael Gomaa, Amr Zaki, Mahmoud Fathallah and Mohamed Nagy “Gedo”.
“It helps to develop the league and also give other players the opportunity to exhibit their talents and to work hard. It is a project worth doing well. What matters to me is talent. If you can play football and you can do well for Nigeria, come and play.”
Keshi started his career in the Nigerian league and made through to the national team until he captained the team in the World Cup in 1994. He played in five Nations Cup tournaments across his 14-year international career (1981 to 1995), including Nigeria’s successful campaign in 1994.
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