AFCON 2023: NPFL star Sikiru Alimi bemoans lack of Super Eagles chances

Remo Stars forward Sikiru Alimi has expressed his unhappiness over what he described as the constant snub of players in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) when it comes to Super Eagles call-ups.

The 27-year-old believes talented footballers in the local league deserve the same opportunities as their foreign-based counterparts. 

This follows Super Eagles boss Jose Poseiro’s decision to name only three home-based players in his 40-man provisional squad for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023).

Enyimba FC’s Ojo Oluwasegun, Sporting Lagos FC’s Christian Nwoke and Obasogie Amas of Bendel Insurance FC are the only NPFL players included in the list.

Alimi said home-based players have always been treated unfairly when it comes to the national team, insisting more NFPL players should've made it into Nigeria’s provisional squad for AFCON.

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“I am not happy with the way NPFL players are being neglected in the Super Eagles. The list of players for the AFCON does not reflect the true state of the Nigerian league, which is not fair,” Alimi said, as quoted by Guardian NG.

“I might not have what it takes to compete with the current African Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen, in the Eagles strike force… he is already a big name in Africa and the world, but I am sure there are credible NPFL players that are good enough to fight for shirts with some of the other foreign-based players in the squad.”

Super Eagles in tough Group A at AFCON 2023

Nigeria find themselves in a tough group at the AFCON, alongside hosts the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

The Super Eagles, however, look set to once again depend on their foreign-based players at the tournament, with the 40-man provisional squad set to be cut down to a final 27 before the AFCON begins.

Alimi, who previously lined up for Nigerian clubs Shooting Stars, Lobi Stars and Warri Wolves, believes the current trend points to the fact that there’s no reward for playing in the NPFL.

He noted that the lack of regard for the local league, coupled with the poor welfare, is responsible for the mass exodus of players from the NPFL.

“Must NPFL players move abroad to play for foreign clubs before they are considered for the national team? Sadly, it feels that is the only way one can get the opportunity to be invited and play for the Super Eagles,” the striker fumed.

“There is no reward playing in the NPFL; the money is not so good and sometimes it doesn’t come on time; and then the players are not given opportunity in the national team. That is why some home-based players seek to move out of the country no matter what it takes them to achieve that dream.”

Super Eagles
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Ighalo, Oliseh voice their concerns

Meanwhile, veteran forward Odion Ighalo and Nigeria legend Sunday Oliseh have also added their voices to the call for more home-based players to be given opportunities in the national team.

Ighalo, who currently plays for Saudi Pro League side Al Wedha FC, said the Super Eagles’ provisional squad should have included at least five players from the NPFL.

“I don’t think it’s right not to invite home-based players because it is a provisional, 40-man list. We should have five to seven home-based players to encourage them,” Ighalo told Oma Sports. 

Oliseh, who was part of Nigeria’s 1994 AFCON-winning side added, in a post on X (formerly Twitter): “If we had superstars like in the ’90s and early 2000s playing at the very top world club sides, Champions League, etc, one could understand the absence of home-based in a 40-man call-up. Haba, they just want to disregard everything that is home-based in favour of football business! Time we acted!”

Nigeria are set to camp in Abu Dhabi ahead of the AFCON in the Ivory Coast. 

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.