The Nigerian Football National team ranked 34th best national football side in the world by FIFA, have had quite a number of historical figures pass through its ranks. Since its first football match 70 years ago, the country has continued shining when it comes to the beautiful game, truly so as they’ve been ranked 5th best national side once, in 2004 when they were playing one of the best footballs around.
Legendary players like Kanu Nwankwo, Jay-jay Okocha, Yekini, Daniel Amokachi, John Mikel Obi and a lot more have represented this country in various tournaments but then, there have also been some really good players who rejected an opportunity to wear the Green and White colours of Nigeria.
John Fashanu, as the name suggests, was a Nigerian striker who played in the 80s and early 90s. He was born in England to a Nigerian father while his mother was from Guyana.
Fashanu had the chance to play for Nigeria and was totally eligible but he decided to play for England instead where he had a failed international career starring in just two games in his entire time as a player for the Three Lions.
Fashanu has since stated on a lot of occasions that he regrets that decision and also tried to convince current England midfielder Dele Alli to pick Nigeria over England.
Aside Fashanu, there have been quite a number of talented Nigerians who picked other countries instead of playing for the Super Eagles, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Sidney Sam, Emmanuel Adebayor, Oguchi Onyewu, Stefano Okaka and a lot more. Now, this begs the question, “why is it that a lot of players choose other countries over Nigeria?”
Well, this has so many answers, and in my candid opinion, every player had a particular reason for making this decision. Personally, I think the biggest reason for this decision is the terrible state of the country’s football federation.
This reason summarizes a lot of things in one, the NFF is really bad when it comes to player Management. A lot of times, players don’t get their bonuses, they’re stressed, infrastructures and kits aren’t sufficient or provided, it’s a mess. Again, they don’t give more importance to the young and their scouting system is terrible.
For example, Fikayo Tomori, the newest player to not play for Nigeria despite being from the country gave an interview stating that he will be playing for England over Nigeria simply because he received a call-up from England first.
You won’t really blame the kid, the NFF is so bad that they let a talented player like that go so easily, Fikayo didn’t receive any call-up from any country in the last international break and even then, Nigeria didn’t fight to get the boy. Now, he’s an England international footballer. Sometimes, the players have the aim of representing their country but the other country gives them better opportunities and snap them first.
Aside from this reason, there are also some smaller things that could make a player choose another country over Nigeria, and that’s team quality. With all due respect, if I were a playmaker, I’d pick a team with Harry Kane as my finisher over one with Odion Ighalo, I’d pick a team with a suitable and less stressful playing style, of course, that’s if I want to enjoy my football more.
What’s sad is that players opt for better teams, although back in the days’ players opt for poorer teams because Nigeria had some really elite names in their ranks. For example, Emmanuel Adebayor opted to play for Togo over Nigeria because the Super Eagles had better strikers and his chances of securing a spot will be limited, now the reverse is the case.
One other reason why players ditch Nigeria is due to the player’s individual dreams and ambition. If I were a really good footballer, I’d prefer to play for a team with better chances to play in elite international tournaments, against elite teams and players which will provide me with a platform to showcase my skills and get signed by one of the European top clubs.
Nigeria is pretty on the average on that aspect and also, scouts from top European clubs pay more attention to players from these countries due to a lot of factors which includes quality of media and also the bad name African players have given themselves in the past regarding age cheating.
Although it’s really a nice thing to be patriotic, Nigeria need to accept the truth that we’re at fault in some cases as the state of the country and it’s football isn’t really favourable.
Despite that, there’s quite a good number of talented players in our squad who picked Nigeria over these foreign countries (yeah maybe because they had a higher chance of securing a spot here but it doesn’t matter) like Alex Iwobi, Leon Balogun etc. Morever, we should try and restructure the football federation, groom the youth and manage the players we have well, maybe then, we might increase our chances of getting these talented players.