Ex-international, Paul Okoku, has welcomed the decision to mandate Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, to include four players from the Nigeria Professional Football League in future Super Eagles squads.
Speaking against the backdrop of the recent poor showing of a wholly foreign-based Eagles squad against Sierra Leone in a 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualification double-header earlier in the month, Okoku frowned at the reluctance of Rohr to have home-based players in his squad.
A member of the Eagles team that won silver at the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations under Coach Adegboye Onigbinde, Okoku, said that it was commendable that the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare and top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, led by President Amaju Melvin Pinnick, were in agreement on the need to have at least four NPFL stars in the country’s elite team.
Speaking further, Okoku, a former vice-captain of the first Flying Eagles team to qualify for the 1983 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Mexico, said that, ‘’this decision will encourage our players in Nigeria to be at their best in all games because they know that somebody is watching them and if they excel, they will most probably get an invitation to the Super Eagles team.
‘’It is a morale booster for the players playing at home and serves as an impetus to reach for heights never reached before and increases the competitive spirit in the players, the local teams and the Super Eagles.
‘’This is the way to go because no meaningful and sustainable development can be attained in our football if we neglect the home-based players in our Super Eagles squad.
“Players like my humble self, Tarila Okorowanta, the Olukanni brothers, Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesiamaka, Taju Disu, the late Stephen Keshi and a host of others, were discovered from the local scene and going back to that model of football development is the way to go for the success of the Super Eagles’’, added Okoku, winner of the first Tessema Cup with Nigeria in 1984.
Going forward, Okoku said that, ‘’I would love to see the number of home-based talents in the Eagles rise, without putting a cap on the number’’.