Nigerian will be without a single outfield NPFL player in Ivory Coast when the continental championship kicks off next month
Abia Warriors defender Ifeanyi Anaemena has expressed his disappointment at the non-inclusion of outfield players from the Nigeria Professional League in the Super Eagles squad to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Soccernet.ng reports.
Head coach Jose Peseiro and the Nigeria Football Federation a few days ago submitted to the Confederation of African Football, CAF, a provisional 40-man list of players.
Interestingly, goalkeepers Ojo Olorunleke of Enyimba International, Amas Obasogie of Bendel Insurance, and Christian Nwoke of Sporting Lagos – players from the NPFL – made the shortlist.
However, there has been discontent from several quarters that no outfield player from the domestic league was included in the AFCON roster.
Anaemena, who earned his first Super Eagles call-up under former national team boss Gernot Rohr, is convinced it is a disrespect to the NPFL that Peseiro could not name a single outfield player in his team.
“It is an insult and it shows to the world that the league is not valued,” the former Enyimba strongman told the Punch.
“This is one of the reasons why some players don’t want to play in the NPFL when they return home from abroad. They’d rather stay at home and wait for offers from other leagues.
“Most NPFL stars go to Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh to play football because the league is devalued.”
He added, “NFF, the coaches, and those that are given national assignments have disrespected the league. That is why a provisional list was made, and it could not have NPFL (outfield) players. They only considered the goalkeepers because they have a serious challenge in that area.”
Nigeria won the AFCON trophy for a third time in 2013 with then-coach Stephen Keshi including six home-based players in his final 23-man squad.
One of the NPFL players, Sunday Mba, scored the winning goal against Burkina Faso in the final to make Nigeria the African champions.
Anaemena believes the NFF should have maintained that winning template made popular by the late Keshi.
The former Al Nahda of Saudi Arabia star continued: “On my Facebook page, I made a statement about Stephen Keshi helping the NPFL players; he was the coach who proved to the world that NPFL players could do well. We went to the AFCON in 2013 with six NPFL players, and we won.”
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will begin on January 13 and run till February 11 with Nigeria tipped among the favourites to be crowned champions.