LIBERIA, ACID TEST FOR HOME-BASED PLAYERS - KESHI
Big Boss, Stephen Keshi, has tasked the home-based players in the national team camp to prove their readiness to play in the main Super Eagles' team with Wednesday's international friendly encounter against the Lone Star of Liberia in Monrovia.
There have been wide insinuations that the Super Eagles' gaffer would thread the path of his predecessors that only used the players in the domestic league as training materials only to dump them for the foreign-based professionals in real match situations.
Nigeria begins the campaign towards next year's Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa on February 29, against the Amavubi Wasps of Rwanda at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali. And Keshi says the performance of the home-based players against the Liberian side would determine whether they would be good enough for the battle in Kigali.
'The match against Liberia in Monrovia would be the real test for the home-based players. I want to see how they would react to the environment since it is an away game. They have to convince me that they are ready for the main Super Eagles team,' Keshi said.
The former charismatic Super Eagles' captain reiterated his vision to build his new (national) team around players in the domestic league but expressed concern over the players' penchant for frequent travel abroad for trials which he said was not healthy for his programme.
Explaining why he placed embargo on trials abroad for the players in the national team camp, Keshi said he required between six months and one year to raise a formidable team of home-based players that could withstand any opposition at any given time.
'I really wish to build my team around the home-based players because that is what the European nations are doing at the moment. Even the Brazilians are doing the same thing. The players in the domestic league form the nucleus of the team while they complement with some players plying their trade in foreign leagues. But I'm not ready to work with players that are not prepared to stay with me for six months to one year' he emphasized.
'Each time these players travel abroad for trials and fail to make it, they return to camp and I would start afresh to work on them. It slows me down and we cannot continue that way if we are really serious to build formidable team made up of players in the domestic league.
He regretted the desperation among players in the domestic league to join the European train when, according to him, they are hardly ripe for European Leagues.
'It's rather unfortunate that the players in the domestic league are in a hurry to make it to Europe. They keep going and coming back without success because they are not ready for European football. You can imagine a player like Jude Aneke, the highest goal scorer in Nigeria league with 20 goals in a season going to Belgium for trial and coming back without success.
'Look at Chibuzor Okonkwo, after playing many games for the Super Eagles and with all his international experience at the youth level, he went to Turkey and failed to secure a team. He could not even succeed with a Nation-wide club in England. The same thing applied to Obinna Nwachukwu and Gbenga Arokoyo. They keep going and coming back to play in Nigerian League because their managers are deceiving them.
'I've told the players in camp with me to relax. I'm ready to do the dirty job by working on them to bring them up to European standard. At the end of the day they and their managers are the ones that would enjoy. Nigerian players have quality but they need to be worked on. I did it with the Togolese players. The scouts were coming to Togo to sign the players and not for them to go on trials in Europe. That's what I want to do with Nigerian players in the domestic league and I've tried to explain this to them' Keshi said.