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Football | Nigeria

NPL stars end Afcon spell



For the first time in 19 years, Nigeria’s domestic league will contribute as much as six players to the Super Eagles squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Since the exit of former Nigerian gaffer, Clemens Westerhof, players in the domestic league had been repeatedly ignored by successive coaches.

It remained a barren stretch of Kalahari proportions and a derogatory term, home-based, was frequently used for players back home.

The situation remained unchanged until the arrival of former Nigerian captain, Stephen Keshi, as coach in 2011.

Keshi, who is a product of the Nigerian league worked round the clock to ensure players in the Nigeria Premier League, had equal chances like their counterparts abroad.

The NPL stars listed by Keshi include: Chigozie Agbim, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Godfrey Oboabona, Reuben Gabriel, Ejike Uzoenyi and Sunday Mba.

Undoubtedly, critics would fault Keshi’s decision. After all, it’s normal to think that the right players were ignored.

However, it’s reward for consistency and hard work for the players who played significant roles as Nigeria qualified for the competition after missing the 2012 edition in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Plateau United general manager, Bitrus Bewarang, who worked as one of Westerhof’s assistant is pleased with Keshi’s style.

“As captain of the Eagles, Keshi knew what we did. So I’m satisfied with his template,” Bewarang said to supersport.com.

Keshi started his build-up back in 2012 when the home lads engaged Afcon bound Angola in a friendly.

The lads also earned confidence in friendly matches against Liberia, Egypt and Niger Republic.

Interestingly, it was the same strategy that Westerhof used to unearth talents in the 90s.

Westerhof ignored Keshi and several big names when he headed for the Algiers ’90 Afcon with 18 players from the league and only three professionals: Ademola Adesina, Andrew Uwe and Rashidi Yekini.

Keshi’s assistant, Daniel Amokachi, who blossomed under Westerhof’s guidance, was one of the players from the domestic league.

And two years later, eight players from the league headed for the Senegal ’92 Afcon.

Ike Shorunmu, the present goalkeepers’ trainer was one of the goalkeepers in the squad.

Others included Dotun Alatishe (3SC), Thompson Oliha (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), John Ene Okon and Finidi George (Calabar Rovers), Ajibade Babalade (3SC), Abdul Aminu (El-Kanemi) and David Ngodigha (ACB).

Statistics

Tunisia 1994: Two

Isaac Semitoje: Iwuanyanwu Nationale

Edema Fuludu: BCC Lions

South Africa 1996

Suspended

Burkina 1998

Suspended

Nigeria/Ghana 2000: One

Murphy Akanji: Julius Berger

Mali 2002: One

Eric Ejiofor: Enyimba

Tunisia 2004: Two

Vincent Enyeama: Enyimba

Romanus Orjinta: Enyimba

Egypt 2006: One

Dele Aiyenugba: Enyimba

Ghana 2008

None

Angola 2010

None

Gabon/Equatorial Guinea 2012

Failed to qualify

South Africa 2013: Six

Chigozie Agbim: Goalkeeper (Enugu Rangers)

Azubuike Egwuekwe: Defender (Warri Wolves)

Godfrey Oboabona: Defender (Sunshine Stars)

Reuben Gabriel: Midfielder (Kano Pillars)

Sunday Mba: Forward (Enugu Rangers)

Ejike Uzoenyi: Forward (Enugu Rangers)



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