By Favour Itua
Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be back on the beat again with two friendly matches against Mexico and Ecuador in May 2022 and the squad already had eight players from the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL.
The Super Eagles since its formation have seen players come and go and while this has happened, many have not failed to question the players invited to the National team be it foreign-based or home-based.
The 2013 African Cup of Nations winning team led by Late Stephen Keshi has been the focal point used in asking for more players from the Nigerian League in the National team.
In the 23-man squad for that 2013 AFCON, the players based in the Nigerian League were Azuibuike Egwuekwe of Warri Wolves, Rueben Gabriel of Kano Pillars, Godfrey Oboabona of Sunshine Stars, Ejike Uzoenyi, Sunday Mba and Chigozie Agbim all from Enugu Rangers.
It was Sunday Mba that eventually became the hero of the team after scoring the goal that knocked out the Ivory Coast in the Quarter Final and the winning goal in the final against Burkina Faso.
Like Oliver Twist, always asking for more, Nigerian League faithful believe there are quality players back home, although coaches who have been in charge since Stephen Keshi prefer Nigeria players abroad.
Like Johnny Drille in one of his songs said “In the morning time, the Sun will shine,” that is the case for the eight NPFL players who have been invited for the friendly games.
Since the list was released there have been celebrations amongst clubs, the media and invited players.
We take a look at the chosen eight for the games and what they bring to the table.
Ojo Olorunleke (Enyimba FC)
The Kogi- born Goalkeeper’s invite has been long overdue.
His father is a lecturer at the Kogi State Polytechnic and wanted him to become a lawyer, but Olorunleke went against this wish as he chose football.
Since then, he has become one of Nigeria’s safest hands.
Since he was given a chance at defunct Voice of Nigeria FC, Abuja, he has remained consistent.
His exploits at Giwa FC caught the attention top clubs in the league including the age- grade National team as he was at the U-20 African Cup of Nations in 2015 and Nigeria won the tournament.
He has good reflexes, a firm grip on the ball, and is very good when it comes to saving penalties.
In 2018, Olorunleke Ojo saved three penalties as Akwa United beat Al-Ittihad via penalties to progress to the play-off round of the CAF Confederation Cup.
He also helped the Promise Keepers win the Nigeria Federation Cup in 2018 through his penalty save.
Since he joined Enyimba, he has so far amassed 15 appearances with 6 clean sheets to his name.
Adewale Adeyinka (Akwa United)
The Kwara- born shot- stopper was pivotal in Akwa United’s first NPFL title, as he holds the record for most consecutive clean sheets in the Nigeria Professional Football League, after going 16 matches without conceding a goal in the 2020-21 season.
The former Kwara United and ABS goalkeeper was part of the U17 set of 2013 but missed the World Cup due to an injury.
He is brave, has good coordination, and sharp reflexes, and will be a force to the reckoned with.
He has so far made 21 appearances with the Promise Keepers this season with 10 clean sheets to his name.
Isah Ali (Remo Stars)
Position (Center Back)
The rugged and dogged defender has been superb for Remo Stars this season.
The wealth of experience he brought from Inter Allies in the Ghanaian Premier League has seen him play 22 times for the Ikenne based team this season with just one yellow card to his name.
He is a left-footer, calm, disciplined, one of the tallest defender in the league and he always has a good chance of winning the ball during aerial duels.
Ibrahim Buhari (Plateau United)
Position (Center Back)
He is a coach’s delight, a defender that can also score goals.
This is the case for Ibrahim Buhari who has so far scored 6 goals and 1 assist in 23 appearances for Plateau United.
He is versatile and can also play at right-back.
His ability to push forward and still do his defensive duties saw him grab a winner this past weekend for the Jos-based side against Wikki Tourist to keep their title hopes alive.
Chiamaka Madu (Rivers United)
He is an offensive midfielder with so much experience.
He is a creative and strong player who can operate from the flanks, the midfield, create goals and also score goals.
Has formerly played with Rivers United and Enugu Rangers where he won the league in 2016.
Admired by Super Eagles assistant coach, Salisu Yusuf as he played for him last season at Rangers before moving to Rivers United. So far this season, he has played 19 matches and has a goal and 2 assists.
Babatunde Afeez Nosiru (Kwara United)
The defensive midfielder brings back the memories of Late “Thunder Balogun” with his lethal shots at goals.
He is a free-kick specialist, one who works like Ngolo Kante of Chelsea and is as calm as John Mikel Obi.
Having played 25 matches with 1 assist for the Harmony Boys, we can be hopeful that we have a player who will give Wilfred Ndidi a run for his money.
He says his role model is Mikel Obi and can replace Jay-Jay Okocha as new Super Eagles free kick specialist if given the chance for him to prove himself.
Victor Mbaoma (Enyimba International)
This has been his best season so far with the people’s Elephant with 12 goals and 1 assist which has helped lift Enyimba to compete for a top 4 placing in the League.
He can play anywhere upfront, he has good control, can shoot from long range, and is a good finisher.
The Remo Stars Academy product has remained consistent in the league with 47 NPFL career goals.
His maiden invite to the Super is coming at the right time and will hope to utilize it.
Ishaq Rafiu Kayode (Rivers United)
He is a defender’s worst nightmare, his speed, agility, and goals have made Rivers United a force in the league this season.
He can take on opposing defenders in one on one situations and has good positioning with good understanding of the game.
Fondly called “Pot of Soup”, he is the current highest goal scorer in the Nigerian League with 14 goals and 3 assists.
His ability to play anywhere upfront will help Salisu Yusuf should he want to play a 4-3-3 formation or 4-4-2 formation.
Call him the rave of the moment or poster boy and you will not be wrong as he has shown maturity in spite of the pressure on him.
With the list still going to be trimmed down to 25 players, one will expect that over 50 percent of the NPFL make the final cut as they might just be the next big thing in our National team.
It will however depend on what the boys put up in the few training sessions they will have with the team, and the mentality of the coaches