Lagos, May 15, 2019
Some soccer fans and journalists have expressed divergent opinions on Super Eagles’ 25-man provisional list for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) just released by Coach Gernot Rohr.
The preparation of the senior national team toward AFCON heated-up when Rohr released the 25-man provisional list on Tuesday for camping in Asaba.
The composition of players that made the list came as no surprise as it includes the team’s regulars, save for some players that many think should not have made the list.
Some, for instance, are quick to query the inclusion of Eagles Captain Mikel Obi who had yet to play for the team after their exit at the group stage of the 2018 World Cup.
Others also wondered why the inclusion of “out-of-form” Leicester City Striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, in the team.
The Super Eagles will begin their quest for the fourth glory when the biennial football hostilities take centre stage in Egypt starting from June 21 to July 19.
The former Chairman, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) Lagos State, Fred Edoreh, in his opinion, justified the inclusion of both players, saying that the coach should know better.
“I do not think it is out of order to recall Obi to the team. Any team with a blend of youthfulness and experience will surely do well at any competition.
“Inviting Mikel is good because I think his experience is also needed in the team, going by his contributions during the World Cup.
“For Kelechi Iheanacho, his invitation is a 50-50 chance because people see him as a good player who contributes to the team. For the coach, he may probably believe that he will pick up again.
“Sometimes the decision to field a player rests on the perception of the coach and more than that, it is good to give people chance. I also believe the coach wants to be successful as well,’’ he said.
A veteran sports journalist with TVC, Solo Ajuziogu, said that both players might have outlived their relevance in the team, wondering what positives the coach wants to derive from their inclusion.
“It seems that the coach does not have an idea of what he wants to do or he feels that the team can be a rehabilitation centre for non-performing players.
“Of what importance is the invitation of Mikel into the team? Throughout the entire qualification stage of AFCON, Mikel did not kick a ball or contribute anything toward the qualification.
“Maybe Rohr has a humorous sense of justice to have invited Mikel, although he claimed to have discussed his return to the team.
“The fact remains that we have several players who can play Mikel’s role now. We have Oghenekaro Etebo, Moses Simon, Wilfred Ndidi and others, besides why not give others chance to prove themselves,’’ he asked.
The Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Olympic Committee, Phemmy Adetula, pointed out that the inclusion might be justifiable, owing to Mikel’s experience and role in the team.
“When talking about a competition like AFCON, we need experience because since the exit of Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo, it is Mikel that has been shouldering the responsibility of leadership in the team.
“We cannot forget in a hurry his contributions during the Olympics, although many did not like his relocation to China, but he is now back in England; I think we still need him.
“For Iheanacho, it is neither here nor there because since he got to Manchester City team, he thought he has arrived which is not the case, to me, he is a lazy player.
“If the coach and technical crew can work on his psyche, maybe he can improve because many Nigerians think he has nothing to contribute to the team,’’ he said.
A soccer fan, Opeyemi Adedeji, said that though the coach knew what to do, the inclusion of Mikel and Iheanacho was a bad precedence to the team.
“The coach might have his reasons, but inviting Mikel is something we cannot fully accept because he truly deserted the team during the qualification stage preferring to face his club.
“Mikel’s allegiance to the team is questionable because as a team captain, he should have known better by supporting the team with his presence but he likes to choose when to play.
“For Iheanacho, for the coach to know that it is controversial, he should try and feel the pulse of Nigerians and he will know that his inclusion was done in bad faith.
“Why should a coach invite a bench warmer to a national team? Iheanacho’s last game at Manchester City speaks a lot of his loss of form, we don’t need him instead we should invite others,’’ he said.
A grassroots football player, Akeem Oladejo, said that Iheanacho’s form had dropped, hence he does not have any relevance in the team.
“Iheanacho in Super Eagles is not what we need now. He has lost his form, so he does not have anything to contribute again. The young man is sluggish and sometimes misses glaring chances.
“I think the coach needs to drop him because I don’t see him making the final list with his present form,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the team list includes: Goalkeepers, Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United), Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa).
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy), Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey), Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey), William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton and Hove Albion, England).
Others are Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Semi Ajayi (Rotherdam United, England).
Midfielders: Mikel Obi (Middlesbrough FC, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Beer Sheva, Israel).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassar, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Odion Ighalo (Shangai Shenshua, China); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey).
Alexander Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain).
Nigeria is in Group B alongside, Guinea, Burundi and Madagascar.