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Reduce emphasis on foreign-borns, let’s develop local Nigerian talent

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Jurgen Klinsmann, the American soccer coach, is also the technical director for the soccer federation and any keen American soccer fan can see the difference he is making. But some of his moves are controversial; he is advising young American players to forget university teams and join MLS academies.  His other move and more controversial one is his work as an ‘agent’ for German clubs. He is sending more and more Americans to the German second division and MLS teams are not happy.
Klinsmann believes that the MLS is too slow to bring players up and since he wants them to develop quickly he sends them to Germany to play what he considers a higher level of competition. His simple reply to critics; I was hired by the federation to improve American soccer and build a wining national team and not to build the MLS.
In Nigeria we have our own small controversy; our new football federation board is all out in Europe looking for any player with the slightest hint of being Nigerian. They plan to build a new Super Eagles team on the backs of players with dual nationality.
This is not new because for over 30 years we have found and used foreign-born Nigerians in our teams but this is the first time that it is a policy for the federation.  What makes this equally controversial is the added policy of shipping our best young players to European club academies. This means that the federation is abandoning its number one mission, player development.
Nigerian track and field was at its best when we used Nigerians born and bred at home but nurtured to Olympic standards by American schools.  This was our winning formula and it still works today (cue Blessing Okagbare).
But our current track and field federation is cutting corners in our development by recruiting American-born Nigerians to our team. Some are already washed-up and without the necessary family ties to represent Nigeria. I want to believe that none of our ‘New Nigerians’ has won us a medal yet.
The Nigerian basketball federation got into this foreign-born player recruitment too. The results have been shaky at best. When our national team’s (D’Tigers) composition was 80% home grown we had two second place finishes at the Afro Basket and one World Championship appearance.  In our newly constituted teams, we have 80% Americans and have a fifth, a third and a seventh place finish at the Afro Basket, with one Olympic appearance. You can make of it what you will.
Here is my point: if Nigerians abroad can produce players good enough for consideration into our national teams, how come we Nigerians at home cannot produce players that can compete at a high level? I want to believe that producing an Olympic caliber track or field star in Nigeria is the most difficult of the three sports in question.
But we have had a blue print before now and even still apply; find them young, train them and American schools will come looking to offer them sports scholarships. They become Olympic athletes and they also have a good education; has anyone noticed that all our track stars in the 80s and 90s are doing well in retirement.
As for football and basketball, we have no reason not to be able to compete with our brothers from overseas. Genetically we are all the same; Victor Oladipo is very athletic (run, jump, quick and strong), so are a few young kids in Lagos. The difference is our developmental programs in football and basketball; our coaching is weak, our identification process is nonexistent and our federations lack direction.
The time has come for us to face the realities of sports participation and development; none of our European or American Nigerians will play for Nigeria if they have the slightest chance to play for England in football or America in basketball. Even the Nigerian parents know the commercial value of representing these countries, so let’s not get offended when some will turn us down, let’s go ahead and produce our own world class players

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