Ikpe Ekong, a former Super Eagles player has stated that the current state of the Nigerian football would have gained greater heights if the sports management had maintained the grassroots programmes employed in the past.
The former Reggiana and GAIS star blamed the low level of football development in Nigeria on the approach exhibited by current national team coaches focusing more on overseas-born players over their home-based counterparts.
He warned that, the country would continue to rely entirely on foreign-based players for the national team with the current poor grassroots football projects unattended.
Ikpe Ekong said:
“We need to put a good structure in place to revamp Nigeria’s grassroots football development culture. That way, coaches will have enough quality players to work with.
“I was developed in Nigeria through different grassroots championships. My journey to stardom started at the grassroots level at Ajegunle.
“In the past, we had street competitions, as well as school competitions, where coaches picked football talents and nurtured them to stardom.
“Some renowned Nigerian players we celebrate today were discovered here at home at different grassroots competitions before they moved abroad to enhance their career. I don’t have anything against overseas-born Nigerian stars, but we have to put things in the right place in the country to ensure the gap is reduced when it comes to team selection.
“This will be achieved through grassroots development programmes. If this is not done, Nigerian football would continue to face challenges,”
Commenting on the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers, Ekong warned that ‘there are no more pushovers in African football’.
However, it is of a demanding need that the coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, to improve his team for the matches ahead and take them seriously.