Former International, Felix Owolabi, has expressed shock that Nigerians are expecting players who hardly trained together to produce good result in Friday’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group A qualifiers between Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau.
The encounter, a match day three of the AFCON’s qualifying series, saw the Super Eagles lose 0-1 to the Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau in the match played at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja.
Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, Owolabi stated that some of the reasons like bad pitch, players’ attitude and the coach’s incompetence were mere excuses, adding that failure to listen to past voice of wisdom on the way forward for the country’s football cost Nigeria the match.
“What many people have failed to realise is believing that a set of invited players from Europe would come together and train for three to four days as a team. This definitely cannot and will not work until the administrators listen to past views given on the way forward for our football.
“I heard many complained that the Eagles defeat was caused by the pitch. Some said the players were not committed, while others said it was the fault of the coach not naming the right players in the first 11. But I will say it goes beyond that, we need to start doing the right thing, the right way.
“If we attributed our failure to beat Guinea-Bissau to the pitch, then you have to ask yourself if they played on a different pitch. This reason doesn’t make sense at all because I didn’t hear anywhere the players complained about the pitch. The truth is that the players never had enough time to train together,” he said.
The former Eagles’ winger, who lamented the numbers of foreign-based players in the team, said the Super Eagles should have been built around the home-based players.
“Some of us have always advocated for the fusion of both the home and foreign based players into the national team for better team work. I do not think we need the numbers of players we invite from Europe for a match like this. Foreign players that we need are the key ones that will strengthen some departments in the team.
“I keep saying we should concentrate on the local league, because I believe we have players who are good enough for the nation. Have you asked yourself why the national teams in Europe are playing as a team? Look at the English team; majority of the players are in the same league and that is why they can play together as a unit.
“We don’t seem to think in this country, as we will keep on having the same problem with our national team every now and then since we don’t want to do thing in a proper way. I keep saying the bedrock of any national team is the local league and if we don’t accommodate these players in our local league how then do we export for the rest of the world to see them?
“We keep on saying the same thing we have always been clamouring for that players at home who are good enough can be assembled for a long period of time in camp and that later some key players can be added to beef up the team. But we are never listened to as they keep on bringing all the players from Europe to form our Eagles and yet not all of them get to play aside from not achieving the desired result,” he said
The former Shooting Stars of Ibadan, who holds a PhD in Physical Education added: “This also what our journalists need to write to help enlighten the public about top players in our league with potentials just as journalists in other climes write about theirs around the world.
“Though I understand the paucity of fund challenge faced by journalists in the country, which limit them from travelling around like in my days when they have first hand experience on players that are in good form and from there they tell a story of such players,” he stated.