Former Nigerian defender, Waidi Akanni has described as “an ill wind that blows no one any good” the over-reliance on foreign-based players by the manager of Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr.
Rohr recently prosecuted the best-forgotten 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying double-header against the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone using 100% foreign-based professionals. The inactivity of the domestic league due to the coronavirus pandemic appeared to be the excuse for not including locally-based players.
Despite the full doses of 100% foreign input in the AFCON qualifiers the Rohr’s men were able to pick a paltry two points from possible six against lowly-rated West African opponent Sierra Leone, thereby placing far more pressure on the nation’s quest for a place in the AFCON finals in Cameroun, on the last qualifying matches.
Akanni said the practice portends great danger for our football as no country grows its football wholly on imports from outside its own shores.
“There are lot of things wrong with the team. (I’m) just hoping that the coach will get good advisers on how to move Nigerian football forward.
“The truth is that you cannot depend throughout or wholly on foreign-based players in all kinds of matches you want to play that could only mean you are not studying African, Asia, European and world football.
“Everyone has its own style of play, Africa has its own style and pattern and you cannot get the desired result by mixing them up.
“The coach needs proper Nigerian adviser that knows how football is played in the land and continent; he will help his course by forthwith appointing somebody of that nature. Except he has and probably not listening to the person or he is under the influence of some powers.
“There is no way you want to play a local dominated side like Sierra Leone and you came with entirely foreign-based professionals on the claim or excuse that the local league is inactive.
“The coach got it wrong by not having a local camp way back from day one, he needs to be part of the local camp with local coaches in-charge there is no way even with the coronavirus scourge he could not have invited three or four of the locals to join his foreign legion and chances are there that we would have got a different result.
“The coach being a foreigner on a different soil or terrain needs to have somebody locally that understands the mathematics, logistics and things that need to be done when playing a particular team.
“Sierra Leone’s Grade A turf is like some fields in Kaduna, Lagos, etc. that’s very rough to play on and you are taking players that play under 99% undulating field to play there you cannot get the best from them.
“It’s the coach to engage a local coach who would have told him on the choice of players to invite in any match involving an African team, a different selection would be needed against Ivory Coast, Egypt, Algeria, Sierra Leone, among others.
“The mix up is where he got it all wrong especially in the match against Sierra Leone,” said the former chairman of Lagos State Football Association.
Akanni said the next AFCON match in March against neighbours, Benin Republic will be an acid test on the tactical savvy of Rohr having failed to secure the side’s ticket with the clash with Sierra Leone.
“Well, it’s self-inflicted that we were unable to guarantee our AFCON ticket with the clash against Sierra Leone.
“I think the match against Benin Republic next year will now define who the coach is and what the players want for themselves.
“We are just one point ahead of Benin Republic and of course, we will not take anything less than a win.
“It means that the coach has to come out straight to put the card on the table because that particular game will certainly define who Gernot Rohr is, his style of play, his understanding of African football and the players he will select will also come up to define to an extent, to showcase that they are worth playing for Nigeria.
“Of course, everybody was disappointed with their performance against Sierra Leone, I’m disappointed just like any other person seeing Nigeria lead four goals to nothing only to draw 4-4 at the end of the game and playing goalless in the reverse fixture against Sierra Leone of all country. Everybody is disappointed,” said Akanni.
Nigeria still lead on Group L on eight points one ahead closest challengers, Benin Republic on seven points, Sierra Leone on three points and Lesotho on two points. Nigeria’s next match will be away to Benin Republic on March 22, 2021 while wrapping their campaign on home soil on March 30 against Lesotho.