The much expected and much anticipated Nigeria National team provisional list, was released Monday evening, leaving in it’s wake, lots of criticisms, backlash and disappointments.
Question like, why 30-man list, why not 35, why Junior Lokosa, why not Junior Ajayi, why Ajiboye, why not Alampasu among others, have dominated public and social media discuss in the last few hours since the list was released.
Chief coach Gernot Rohr and NFF president Amaju Pinnick just before the final list was made public, cried out to the media that, football agents and intermediaries were seriously piling the pressure but stubborn Rohr was determined not to give in despite the temptation of crisp dollars.
Let me state here, that for the very first time in a long while we had a coach who resisted external forces and pressures to give Nigerians a list near perfect but for a few obvious mixups which needs quick clarifications to followers of the beautiful game, Rohr still deserves a big pat on the back.
However, it is difficult if not impossible to wave aside the politics behind the decision to go with a 30-man list instead of 35 as earlier speculated and circulated.
WHY 30, WHY NOT 35?
Gernot Rohr was abreast of the Nigerian factor, he has studied the people and understands the pressures that comes with a Super Eagles list. He knows too well that FIFA permits a list of 23 and three alternate players for the world cup so in his wisdom he decided to release a provisional list of 30 to save himself the future pressures of pruning down a 35man list to 23, few days to the world’s biggest football spectacle.
When the NFF technical committee received the list, they anxiously looked out for 35 but saw 30 players with a caveat warning…. Don’t tamper with my 28 disciples.
Rohr insisted that 28 of the 30 he invited are well known to him after the double header friendlies with Poland and Serbia, meaning that the committee members had just two names to toy with. This was how one Junior from the NPFL came in, in place of the other junior based in Egypt.
Junior Lokosa Vs Junior Ajayi
Perhaps many are not aware of the game plan. Not many knew, that the news that Lokosa was on his way to Bulgeria was just a gimmick used to raise his profile on the eve of the big announcement.
The timing was very perfect, added to the massive media hype.
The Kano state government, Kano Pillars, the NFF and LMC, saw Lokosa as a National project, a brand of the NPFL and were all behind him going to Russia.
Just before the list was released NFF president Amaju Pinnick was on Channels TV singing his praise and at that point, it seem obvious that the boy was primed for Russia. So Lokosa picked one of the slots available based on National interest which was understandable.
Alampasu Vs Ajiboye
Dele Ajiboye is one of the luckiest dudes of his generation. A little bit of hard work and more luck, could see him displace Okechukwu Ezenwa for the third choice keeper spot. His heroics in CHAN coupled with the experience garnered while playing with Plateau United on the continent gave him the edge over Alampasu who has failed to lift his game above average. Rohr needed a fourth goalkeeper and Dele came in highly recommended. Luckily for him, the selectors had no problems with tribal sentiments as it was a case of one yoruba brother taking the place of the other.
Simy Nwankwo the untouchable
The young man sneaked into Rohrs list following two weekends of brilliance. He scored two goals the previous weekend and added another brilliant volley against Juventus in the Italian Serie A, last weekend, to push the likes of Junior Ajayi, Kayode Olanrewaju, Okechukwu Gabriel, Sadiq Umar and Brown Ideye out of reckoning.
Mention was also made of Fanendo Adi from a member of the NFF technical committee but his profile didn’t match what Rohr wanted so Simy clinched it on a platter.
The Rohr masterstroke.
Gernot played a fast one on everyone who had a player or two in mind. He limited their options to just two slots. The hope was that he was going for a 35-man list so every interested party was armed and ready with a name at hand. They were aware of his 28-man list and the stern warning that comes with it, but they still hoped to fill seven spots which was juicy enough.
Unfortunately, just when they arrived at table for discussions, when all the anxious agents were eagerly awaiting the goodnews, the wise one changed his mind, insisting he wants 30, not 35. They pleaded for 32, he said no 30 and that was the straw that destroyed the camel’s back.
Sad day for many but the boss has spoken. It is obvious that no name was forced on Rohr from this list. Lokosa will make the alternate list to Russia and will be smuggled to Bulgeria which is just a stone throw away, to sign the juicy contract. For now though, he has to be in Port Harcourt, he has to travel to London with the team too just to fulfil all righteousness.
After the London game four players will be dropped while three others will make the alternate list as the World Cup team of 23 will be made official in London.
Wishing our Super Eagles a Super World Cup.
By Adewale Ajayi