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WHY KESHI MUST NOT RELY ON FOREIGN-BASED PLAYERS - COOREMAN

By NBF News
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By EMMA NJOKU
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Maurice Cooreman has urged Nigerians to give Coach Stephen Keshi the maximum support he deserves in his effort to raise a formidable Super Eagles' squad that could bring back the golden era of Nigerian football.  The Belgian tactician, who described himself as a 'white Nigerian' having lived and worked in the country in the last 12 years, however, offered useful tips on how the Super Eagles' gaffer could succeed with the team. According to the Warri Wolves' technical adviser, it would be difficult to build a good team around foreign-based players considering the limited time they have to train together whenever the national team has a match to play.  'I think the best thing Stephen Keshi should do is to go to the league venues in Nigeria and pick very good players because there are so many good players in the domestic league who can fit well into the national team,' Cooreman began in a recent chat with Saturday Sunsports.

'Like I said before, it would be difficult to build a good team comprising mainly of foreign-based players considering the limited time they have to train together whenever the national team has a match. It's not enough to have just about three training sessions before a crucial match,' he explained.

Cooreman advocated for a blend of foreign-based and home-based players, but identified the growing number of artificial pitches in the Nigerian stadia as a major challenge, particularly, to the foreign-based players who he said were used to playing on natural grass in Europe where they play their club football.  'Another challenge foreign-based players have is training on artificial turf when they come to Nigeria, because they are used to playing on natural grass in Europe,' he added.  Keshi recently expressed his intention to bring back the national team to its traditional home ground at the National Stadium in Lagos, which still has natural grass on its turf. The Eagles' head tactician had earlier raised the alarm over the dangers inherent in playing on artificial turfs, especially as it affects foreign-based players.  But while Cooreman supported the invitation of foreign-based players, who are enjoying regular playing time in their various clubs in Europe, he expressed reservations about the relevance of Blackburn Rovers' forward, Yakubu Aiyegbeni in the Super Eagles.

'I think there's nothing wrong with inviting players like Osaze Odemwingie, Ahmed Musa, the Uche Brothers (Ike and Kalu) and other foreign-based players that are playing very well in their clubs in Europe. But one player I would not invite if I were the coach of Super Eagles is Yakubu Aiyegbeni. He plays well for his club in England, but whenever he comes to the national team, he hardly lives up to expectation. So, I don't understand why such a player would always be invited to the national team when we have so many good players in the domestic league, who can fit in better in his bill.'

The former Ocean Boys and Kaduna United's tactician advised that Keshi should, also, not underrate any opposition, stressing that Super Eagles could be beaten by any other team nowadays, quite unlike before when the mere mentioning of Nigeria would send shivers into the spine of a country like Rwanda in the game of football.  'Another advice I have for Keshi is that he should recognise the fact that no team is seeing as minnow again. Before now, Nigeria could go to sleep when she wants to play against a country like Rwanda. But you can no longer assume that when you simply assemble players without proper training and blending and you think that with such a team you will beat Rwanda. That era is gone and the reality is that you don't underrate any team in Africa again.  'My plea is that everybody should support Keshi to raise a complete and balanced team. That way, Nigeria will take back her rightful position in world football.'

On whether he has given up on his dream of coaching the Nigerian team, the former Lobi Stars of Makurdi technical adviser replied: 'I have waited for too long to be given a chance to prove myself with Nigeria.  'After Samson Siasia was sacked as coach of the Super Eagles, I had expected that I would be given the opportunity to coach the team, but the job was rather given to Keshi.

'I'm aware that a lot of Nigerians don't want a foreign coach for the Eagles anymore. But I've lived and worked in Nigeria for 12 years now. I see myself now as a Nigerian, a white Nigerian so to say. If only I could be given a chance to prove myself with the senior national team, I'm positive that I would do Nigeria proud.'