Ex-international, Paul Okoku, has welcomed the decision of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Ministry of Sports, mandating the Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, to include four players from the Nigeria Professional Football League in Super Eagles squads.
Speaking against the backdrop of the recent poor showing of a wholly foreign-based Eagles squad against Sierra Leone in a 2022 Africa Cup of Nations double-header qualification earlier in the month, Okoku frowned at the reluctance of Rohr to select home-based players in his squad.
A member of the Eagles team that won silver at the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations under Coach Adegboye Onigbinde, Okoku, said that it was commendable that the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare and top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, led by President Amaju Melvin Pinnick, were in agreement on the need to have NPFL stars in the country’s elite team.
Okoku said the decision was going to motivate footballers playing professionally in Nigeria to raise their performance as they now know they stand a chance of playing for the Super Eagles if they meet the cut.
Okoku, a former vice-captain of the first Flying Eagles team to qualify for the 1983 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Mexico, said that, ”this decision will encourage our players in Nigeria to be at their best in all games because they know that somebody is watching them and if they excel, they will most probably get an invitation to the Super Eagles team.
”It is a morale booster for the players playing at home and serves as an impetus to reach for heights never reached before and increases the competitive spirit in the players, the local teams and the Super Eagles.
”This is the way to go because no meaningful and sustainable development can be attained in our football if we shut out home-based players from our Super Eagles squad.
”Players like my humble self, Tarila Okorowanta, Olukanni brothers, Taju Disu, Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesiamaka, late Stephen Keshi , and a host of others, were discovered from the local scene and going back to that model of football development is the way to go for the success of the Super Eagles”, added Okoku, a winner of the first Tessema Cup with Nigeria in 1984.
Okoku, who resides in the United States of America, said that going forward that he would love to see the number of home-based talents in the Super Eagles increase significantly without putting a cap on the number, pointing out that “putting a cap or limit on the home players in the team has e negative connotation and tends to limit the players to fight for their place in the team”.