Will Nigeria Dominate Football with the Foreign-born Recruitment Policy?


Nigeria’s population of over 200 million inhabitants has often formed the strength of proponents of its potential to have one of the best football teams in the world.

Apparently, the belief that super stars are born and that many start off their careers on the streets across major cities, is quite common.

Proponents readily point to the stars of yesteryear, who attained great heights with the National teams but had humble backgrounds; honed their skills playing at the grassroots.

Over the years and very much so in contemporary times, those hopes of finding the next Christian Chukwu, Henry Nwosu, Olusegun Odegbami, Stephen Keshi and Rashidi Yekini have suffered greatly, due in part to a collapse of what developmental policy existed then and prevalent Football leadership problems.

What alternatives that have presented themselves in the course of that void have been embraced and championed as the new solution.

Among those alt-solution is, the knack for scanning Europe for young professional footballers, who have Nigerian parentage whether fully or dual.

It’ll be misleading to suggest that this policy is novel, far from it, however it was popularized and quickly became the norm since the mid-2000s, but it’s origins can be traced back to the 90s.

Indeed, once in the National colors there’s no distinction, but it’s worthy of note to amplify how outstanding some of the “foreign born” players have been regardless of the span of their international careers.

Yet, it begs the question, could the Body saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the development and growth of Nigerian football, have done better on both sides? The answer is, Certainly.

Their failure to establish a network of more sustainable, robust and measurable system that allows for young talents to be scouted, nurtured and developed within a central database – as is obtained in parts of the world where they seek those players today – is a major a sucker punch.

On the other hand, even more is their folly, that they’d identify and seek out levels A & B promising young players born abroad, but end up losing them over minimal technicalities or outright poor planning.

Amaju Pinnick and Tammy Abraham in 2017 when the former NFF President declared the Striker would play for Nigeria. Photo | Twitter (sportworldghana)

In recent times, names like Lesley Ugochukwu, Michael Oliseh, Eberechi Eze, Jamal Musiala, Tammy Abraham, Bukayo Saka, Karim Adeyemi to mention a few, were at some point seriously linked as prospects for the Nigeria NT.

The plan for massive recruitment of such players was perfected by former Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, but while only in its infancy, the Franco-German was booted out due to a “breakdown of professionalism in the dressing room”, the erstwhile NFF president Amaju Pinnick told journalists.

Pinnick himself had tagged the naturalization of players a “Champagne Policy”, an acolyte of building the core of the NT with foreign born players as Nigeria’s sure ticket to world domination.

But against the aforementioned – about the relevant NFF department’s ineptitude to see through switches – it was a move headed for the rocks.

How quietly Morocco and Ghana got major names across the line to represent them at the 2022 World Cup and how Algeria are fast tracking international switches are all the testament to why Nigeria’s case might mostly have been a charade.

Like Rohr before him, current Super Eagles handler, Jose Peseiro has been on a similar trail; combing Europe’s top leagues for potential targets and aided by Austin Eguavoen, the NFF’s Technical Director.

If they don’t run into a head on collision with current NFF president, Ibrahim Gusau, who claims the unsavory remarks about foreign born players, credited to him, was taken out of context, perhaps a semblance to a deliberate policy could take shape.


Gusau had suggested there would be a restriction on the recruitment of Foreign born players, but the NFF moved swiftly to disclaim the statement.

Regardless, it means there is some concerns at least, and those at the helms of Nigerian football are weighing up the consequences of this unwritten policy.



So what is the best course of action to take? Will Nigeria truly attain greatness with the recruitment of more foreign born players?

How will this decision or lack of one impart the development of the game at grassroots level in Nigeria?


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