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Football | Nigeria

Lobi grow own talent

In a league where teams lack the capacity to develop homegrown players, Lobi Stars have shown that it is an achievable task.

Since the once talked about Under17 League Cup never took off, Nigeria Premier League clubs have failed to understand the importance of homegrown talents.

Proposed two years ago, the youth league to serve as a conveyor belt to assist clubs develop youngsters who would grow through the ranks to become first team players.

Executive Secretary of the NPL, Tunji Babalola, told supersport.com that the recurrent crisis in the league had adversely affected the implementation of the youth league.

"We're trying to resolve several issues at the same time,” Babalola said to supersport.com.

Although the English Premier League accounts for a high percentage of foreign players, clubs still see the need to develop up-and-coming players as a serious subject.

This explains why the former reserve league has metamorphosed into the Under21 League.

Former Premier League side, Middlesbrough, which now campaign in the nPower Championship, is one club that have remained committed to the development of homegrown talents.

Even the legendary Barcelona are dominated by players from the Catalan region who come through its academy, La Masia.

Lobi Stars have their younger team, Lobi Stars Juniors in Nigeria’s amateur cadre, The Nationwide League.

Like Lobi, Enyimba are the other NPL side with a team in the amateur ranks, Enyimba Juniors.

Interestingly, the Lobi template is powered by club supremo, Dominic Iorfa, who played football in England, Scotland, Turkey, China and Hong Kong.

His understanding of the concept has boosted the club’s roster.

“I ensure the team play grassroots teams in different parts of the state and scout for new talents who can fit in,” Iorfa, who won the Best Manager Category at the influential League Bloggers Awards, told supsersport.com.

Lobi Stars’ Homegrown Talents

Once upon a time, Lobi battled for the top stars, but a change in the club policy means the club operate on a shoe-string budget.

Despite their small budget, Lobi reached the Cup final and finished third on the log.

The youngsters were clearly on the top of their game and almost crushed all opposition.

Ironically, most of the big spenders were not as successful as the Makurdi-based club.

During the Federation Cup final in Lagos, Lobi paraded five players from their youth ranks in the first XI, while three were on the bench.

Iorfa’s template has produced new stars like Tony Okpotu, Moses Bunde, Luther Iorhe and Moses Orkuma amongst others.

Bunde’s qualities have earned him a place in the Super Eagles, while Okpotu and Orkuma are in John Obuh’s Under20 team.

This shows that to be successful, you don’t have to spend money but you have a bunch of young and hungry players spiced with some experienced stars.

Two-time Caf Champions League winner, David Tyavkase clearly provided the experience needed.

Iorhe told supersport.com that Tyavkase’s contribution to the success of the club cannot be over-emphasized.

“Every young player in Lobi learnt something from Tyavkase. There is no way you won’t excel with Tyavkase in the team,” Iorhe said to supersport.com.

Indeed, the way Iorfa managed the club has earned him many plaudits within the football fraternity.

Luther Iorhe

Moses Bunde

Emmanuel Ajiya

Anthony Ogbaji Akile Kpoya

Utsaha Iorwuese

Moses Orkuma

Tony Okpotu

Tar Melody

Terna Ikpeen


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