A humble defeat at the hands of El Tri did little to break the home-based contingent at Gernot Rohr’s main group
There is no more polarizing discussion in Nigerian football than the suitability (or otherwise) of local players for the senior national team.
As for most disagreements in this day and age, the battlefield is digital, and with it comes the unspeakable principle that apparently governs discord on the Internet: no one learns anything, and no one shifts ground.
No matter what. To yield ground is to lose face.
When unfortunate events like Sunday morning take place the 4-0 humiliation of an NPFL selection by Mexico, it is rather predictable as feed used for those who believe that little attention can come from the Nigerian Professional Football League.
In a vacuum, it is difficult to protest too much during the summary.
To hold a trial in Los Angeles had to bear witness to a cruel lesson, and the superiority was the Mexican party.
For this rowing, the Nigerian side were also kind at night to take off their own shoes and expose their hind legs: missed passes, poor control and laughable decision making were the order of the day.
With such a willing collaboration, El Tri must have wondered about the usefulness of the exercise – although they are comfortably the best team in Concacaf, the opposition at the upcoming Gold Cup will not be quite so lying.
Was this proof then positive that players from an NPFL withdrawal are under no circumstances fit for purpose? Not quite.
Make no mistake, some of the mistakes border on childish, and it was upsetting that the best players the league can produce seem unfortunate under the hot lights.
It should not be too much to expect at least a good understanding of the basics. Although it must be accepted, however, a fair assessment must take into account the manner in which this team was put together and prepared for their day trip.
It is a team apparently put together to pursue the African Nations Championship in early 2023.
However, the training camp for Sunday’s engagement was the first time this group had met, and their preparation was fraught from the start: frequent and often improvised changes to the training room, as well as confusion about who exactly was supposed to be in charge of the whole rodeo.
The supervision of the CHAN is usually the retention of the Super Eagles assistant coach, but throughout the process, Joseph Yobo was curiously absent.
He later appeared on TV and made money for the ongoing European Championships, and there are no explanations as to what exactly is going on. (It is noteworthy that Yobo does not currently have the necessary coaching certificate to coach the team, which then brings us back to the question raised during his appointment: on what basis is he the role to start with? But it is a completely different matter)
Instead, Paul Aigbogun and Austin Eguavoen, both officials of the Technical Committee of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), toiled during the training period in Abuja, which culminated in the creepy intervention by the Minister of Sport Sunday Dare, which effectively ordered Gernot Rohr to take the helm of the team.
Is it surprising that the team reflects the dysfunction of their administrators at night against this backdrop of disorder?
Of course, it is not a bargain for the NPFL players to be introduced wholesale into the main group of Super Eagles.
It would be extremely naive and unrealistic to begin with. If there is one thing both parties can agree on, it is that the talent in the local league (where it can be found) is essentially in a raw state and a mixture of exposure, competitive matches, training and patience to get ready be for use at the highest level.
But if one feels it is essentially setting these youngsters up for a fall in the City of Angels, it is imperative that the NFF make the plans of these matches a duty.
Maybe be a little more careful with the matchmaking, and try not to view the exercise as an afterthought. Also make a clear decision about who is in charge so that the players can come down to a specific style of play and understand what is required of them; they have enough to wrestle with without their own Federation making them jump through unnecessary hoops.
Rohr was clear that in order for any of the local players to make a serious claim with the major Super Eagles, he must first excel at the CHAN.
The logic may be a little less than waterproof, but that’s its requirement; Instead of putting him on the verge of not picking players from the NPFL, it would make more sense to give those players the best way to get his attention, and then stick to his own criteria.
Then, and only then, will the endless debate reach any resolution.