Are Foreign born Nigerian Footballers inferior to the homegrown ones ?
In recent times, we have seen Nigeria eligible footballers in top English clubs come to Nigeria for the U17, U20 and U23 trials.
●15th March 2023
Nigeria is considered a good football nation, with a rich football history and a strong football culture. The West African nation has produced many talented players who have made a significant impact on the sport at the domestic and international levels.
The Nigerian national football team, the Super Eagles, has been successful on the international stage, winning the African Cup of Nations three times and qualifying for the FIFA World Cup six times. Nigeria has also produced several world-class players who have excelled at top clubs in Europe and other parts of the world.
Moreover, Nigeria has a strong domestic football league, the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), which has produced many talented players over the years. Several Nigerian players have also been recognized with individual awards, such as the African Footballer of the Year award.
Yes, Nigeria is blessed with talented footballers. Nigeria has produced many world-class footballers who have excelled both at the domestic and international levels. Some of the notable Nigerian footballers include Nwankwo Kanu, Jay-Jay Okocha, Austin Okocha, Rashidi Yekini, Finidi George, Emmanuel Amuneke, Vincent Enyeama, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa, and many more.
Nigeria has continued to produce good footballers of recent. In the last few years, Nigeria has produced some young, talented players who have made a significant impact both at the domestic and international levels. Some notable recent Nigerian footballers include Victor Osimhen, Wilfred Ndidi, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho, Odion Ighalo, Zaidu Sanusi and many others.
Victor Osimhen, for instance, is a highly rated striker who has played for top clubs in Europe, such as Lille and Napoli, while Wilfred Ndidi is a talented midfielder who has played for Leicester City in the English Premier League. Similarly, Samuel Chukwueze is a skillful winger who has been impressive for his Spanish club, Villarreal.
Most of these footballers played youth football for Nigeria and they introduced themselves to the world via the youth tournaments organized by CAF and FIFA respectively. However, despite the massive talents in the nation, Nigerians in diaspora have also shown interest in representing their ancestral home ahead of their country of birth.
This decision to represent the Nigeria national team has only been welcomed when it concerns the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons. I’m sure you want to know why I said this. Most Nigerian coaches believe that the youth national teams are windows for Nigerian players to get deals outside the shores of the country.
Ability Or Bribery Oriented
In recent times, we have seen Nigeria eligible footballers in top English clubs come to Nigeria for the U17, U20 and U23 trials. At the end of it all, the players who came all the way from England will be deemed not good enough to play by the team handlers.
Would we say young footballers who turn out for Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and some other Premier League clubs are not on the same level with the home based youth footballers ?
Before the 2023 U-20 AFCON kicked off, Nigeria extended invitations to Arsenal’s Joel Ideho and Crystal Palace’s Ademola Ola-Adebomi but the duo failed to make the cut. Bosso emphasized the need to prioritize players who have a deep understanding of Nigeria’s football culture and can contribute positively to the team’s overall performance. However, the decision to drop foreign-born players from the AFCON squad was a contentious one that sparked a lot of debate and controversy.
Another instance was when Arsenal youngster Tim Akinola got invited by Nigeria but got ignored. Nigeria U23 boss Salisu Yusuf played spoilsport by omitting Akinola and several invited foreign-based players from the squad that played against Tanzania on October 29, 2022.
The 21-year-old paid for the trip to Ibadan from London out of his own pocket and the money has not yet been refunded by the Nigeria Football Federation, according to AllNigeriaSoccer.com.
The Way Forward
Although there have been instances where we have seen foreign born players play for our youth teams; In 2019, Joseph Oluwabusola and Daniel Jinadu who both played for West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth made the Golden Eaglets squad led by Manu Garba. Still the same 2019, Jonathan Zaccala (Triestina Primavera), Nnamdi Ofoborh (AFC Bournemouth) and Ayotomiwa Dele-Bashiru (Manchester City) all made Nigeria U20’s squad to the FIFA World Cup.
So as for us as a nation not to lose these foreign born players, we should take a leaf from the 2019 team handlers. If we don’t, it’d be hard to convince them to make a switch later in the future when they hit the bigger stage.
A blend of Nigeria born and foreign born youngsters will help our football greatly.