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).
Tunisia 1994: Two
Isaac Semitoje: Iwuanyanwu Nationale
Edema Fuludu: BCC Lions
South Africa 1996
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
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)