In recent years, Nigeria’s men’s national team has been dominated by players in diaspora, with over half of our team either born abroad or raised outside the country.
From William Troost-Ekong to Alex Iwobi, the Super Eagles now have a strong core of foreign-raised players assembled from all over the world.
This has generated plenty of debate in the country, with the media and fans wondering if that is the way to go for the national team.
Some have questioned whether these players understand the true meaning of putting on the green and white shirt of the Eagles, or perhaps, they are just glorified mercenaries seeking a path to international football.
The only true barometers for measuring success are the performances and results of the team on the pitch. Unfortunately, results haven’t exactly been great for the Eagles in recent times.
Just weeks after crashing to Tunisia in the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria also missed out on a ticket to the World Cup in Qatar, following a draw against Ghana at the Abuja National Stadium.
Once upon a time, the Super Eagles were the pride of the nation, but that was a very long time ago.
Nigerians are usually naturally expectant of their team, but they have had to tone down those expectations to counter the potential of heart-break.
Even in an AFCON qualifying group made up of minnows like Mauritius, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, the average Nigerian fan still has elements of pessimism about the team’s chances of qualifying.
A clear indication of how far the Eagles have fallen can be seen on how the bookmakers perceive our chances against the likes of Mauritius.
Under normal circumstances, Nigeria would be odds on favourites to win, but even the best betting sites in Nigeria that are usually generous with their odds, are no longer that trusting of the Eagles.
Our recent non-performance have again brought up further questions about the composition of our national team.
Should we stick to the formula of inviting every foreign-born Nigerian footballer or invest more in talents from our local league?
Well, as long as you are eligible to play for Nigeria, then you deserve a shot at it.
Therein lies the problem: Has everyone been given a fair shot at playing for the Super Eagles? This question is specifically targeted at the players that ply their trade in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Have they been given a fair chance to prove themselves in the national team?
Unfortunately, the answer to the question is “No”. There appears to be an assumption from the national selectors and coaches that home-based players are second-rate pros that are simply not good enough to play for the Super Eagles.
Admittedly, our local league is very lousy in terms of organisation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t quality players in the NPFL.
There’s a valid argument that players that have been in Nigeria have a better understanding of what it means to play for the Eagles. They are also generally more committed to the cause as they would have had to work extremely hard in a very difficult environment to get called into the national team.
Our coaches have a responsibility to look beyond the poor state of the league, and find players that can put on our national shirt.
The fact that they’d prefer to invite players from lower divisions in Malta and Bulgaria betrays the laziness and unprofessionalism of the people running our football.
In the end, it really shouldn’t matter where you were born or raised. The main factors that should decide who plays for the national team are the quality and commitment of the players.