A Super Eagles squad made up of players mainly selected from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on July 4 lost 0-4 to El Tri of Mexico in a friendly played at the Memorial Coliseum, USA.
It was Nigeria’s worst defeat in football since 1990 after a 1-5 loss to the Netherlands in a friendly prior to the France ‘98 World Cup.
At first, the team tagged Super Eagles B was supposed to be coached by head coach, Gernot Rohr, but Nigeria Football Federation’s technical director, Austin Eguavoen and his assistant, Paul Aigbogun, were handed over the team camped in Abuja with Rohr later supervising the team.
During the game in the United States, the Eagles were coached by Rohr and assisted by Aigbogun, and the NPFL stars churned out a fair performance despite a 0-4 bashing at the hands of the 11th rated best team in the world.
For sometime now, many Nigerians have been clamouring for the use of home-based players in the main Super Eagles, as Rohr, seems to have lost confidence in these NPFL stars.
Anayo Iwuala, Adeleke Adekunle and John Noble were the only NPFL stars in the plans of Rohr as many other local stars await call-ups without success.
When the decision to use a home-based team for the Mexico friendly became public, many Nigerians took it warmly hoping that it would serve as an opportunity for these neglected local heroes in the domestic league to showcase their talent and of course, shame their critics including the German-tactician of the Super Eagles, Rohr.
What a sad commentary in Los Angeles! Nigeria playing in front of 53,258 spectators, conceded two goals within the first four minutes and by the time the game was over, goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili of Lobi Stars, had become a hero of sorts for pulling out saves that stopped the scoreline from reading 7-0 or 8-0.
A number of football followers saw the result as a bad one for Nigerian football and a shame to a country with a population of about 200 million blessed with human and material resources, but some Nigerians believed it was a learning curve for home-based stars.
“I also feel these guys should not be disbanded instead, arrange more games for them so that they can align and understand themselves… This is just their first time playing together,” Bahdboy Kuda reacted to the outcome of the match.
Ocho Onche said: “Is that how you judge your own good team? So why is Belgium ranking first in the world, is it because they have been winning World Cup or no team has ever beaten them? Rohr is very wrong because we have better players to give us assurance than…”
Aladin Akhor Irume said: “It’s a good game for them to learn and improve themselves.”
To Emeka Okeke, the Super Eagles “went on tourism and sight seeing in America, I guess!”
Courage Osarenren Osayande said: “Just four goals! Very disappointing from the Mexicans! I thought it will be 20 goals to nil. Nigeria try oooo”.
King Chukwuma Joseph said: “You [Rohr] played against Cameroon with foreign-based players and lose, where did you summon this courage to play Mexico with home-based players…?
Nsidibe Abasi said: “How can you build a team in one week and you expect them to win Mexican team? Give the home-based Eagles enough time please, I am very happy for this, okay, it’s a welcome development.”
But a disappointed Muhammed Ahmed could not hide his feelings saying, “they [home-based Super Eagles] just proved themselves to be worthless,” as another Nigerian, Alidu Ben writes: “This is disgusting.”
To some, the NFF had a share of the blame, giving the fact that the way the body handles the working environment with Rohr remains uninspiring.
The NFF must do more to put in place a structure that would enhance call-ups of home-based players into the Super Eagles according to Izuchukwu Nkwazema.
“I have always said it that a coach or football administrator can never be bigger than his thoughts. We can’t improve our league if there is no hope for domestic league players. Till tomorrow, I still salute Dutchman Clemens Westerhof and ‘home boy’ Fanny Amun. Westerhof became a ‘Nigerian’ after touring the entire length and breadth of this country. He was home everywhere watching league matches, Challenge Cup and local friendlies. What was the outcome? He got more than enough. Each position has more than five players waiting for any possible chance. He used close to 70 local players and took us to the World Cup. For Amun he played with over 200 players. Played friendlies with every market club, village and factory workers when the opportunity came, what do we have now, a administration and a coach who believes football comes from foreign-based players angling to find their roots. We must rethink,” Nkwazema writes.
A veteran sports journalist, Desmond Ekwueme, while reacting to the debacle in USA, said that the right environment was not created before the friendly.
“Some mischief makers and haters of the NPFL and its players have started hurling stones at the team for losing 0-4 to a better prepared Mexican side.
“The critics are trying to justify the reason behind Gernot Rohr’s deep hatred for our domestic players, for ignoring them and not willing to integrate them fully into his plans and team since six years that he has been on the job.
“When you fail to prepare or plan, you are preparing or planning to fail. You cannot just wake up one morning and draw up a list of players who are not psychologically or mentally prepared for an international assignment by way of early notice or information; and drag them to America for a game.
“The fact that Rohr was initially excluded from this game before the last minute consideration that he should be part of the trip speaks volumes; and has a negative impact on the players mentally.
“The whole arrangement of this game was just to negatively expose these boys and rub it in after the defeat why Rohr must insist on his Tokunbo Eagles.
To a former player, Ogunlana Tunde, the NPFL stars should not be crucified despite falling like a pack of cards at the hands of Mexico.
“What’s the shame? there is nothing bad in exposing home-based players to international friendly matches. We have lost a match, the coaches and the players must have learned from their mistakes and they will come back home and work more to achieve better results,” Ogunlana said.
Perhaps, if the submission of Super Eagles defender, Kenneth Omeruo, could be anything to go by that the main Super Eagles team will equally struggle to beat Mexico, then ‘NPFL Eagles’ deserve a pass mark.
“Mexico is one of the best teams in the world and even with the main Super Eagles, it would have been difficult and it could go either way how much more a whole team of home-based players with just one or two weeks to train and that is not enough,” Omeruo, Leganes of Spain player said.