Daily Trust (Abuja)

19 December 2012

Nigeria: Keshi Urged to Build Compact, Flair AFCON Team

As the Super Eagles begin the first phase of their final round of preparation for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, a foremost sports administrator, Alhaji Aminu Kurfi has advised the team's Head Coach, Stephen Keshi to select quality players from the local and foreign scene to build a team that is compact in depth, has flair, and is mobile and adventurous.

Kurfi, who gave the advice in a chat with sports reporters in Abuja yesterday, also urged the Super Eagles handler to build a team that would have a lot of options in every department.

According to him, Keshi would be able to achieve this by picking 80 percent of the foreign-based stars and 20 percent of the home-based players to make up the team that would represent Nigeria in the Nations Cup in South Africa next January.

He noted that the inclusion of the local league players would assure every Nigerian player irrespective of where they ply their trade that merit and quality are the yardstick for national call up.

Although the sports philanthropist acknowledges that Nigerians would want nothing but a sip from the prestigious Nations Cup trophy, he urged Keshi to consider the impact his inclusion of the domestic league players, who hitherto were considered no more than training materials, would produce, both now and in subsequent assignments.

He lauded Keshi for giving the domestic league players a sense of belonging since he took charge of the Super Eagles and urged him to engage them to a logical conclusion by listing them in the final squad of the 2013 Nations Cup.

Consequently, he dismissed the call by some persons for Keshi to discard the local league players adding that despite the short fall in the organisation of the domestic league the quality of players therein could not be faulted and must for whatever reason not be neglected.

Alhaji Aminu said the quality shown by Shola Ameobi and Bright Dike during the friendly game against Venezuela was only an infinitesimal evident that there are talents everywhere for Nigeria, who only needed encouragement for them to thrive.

The former lawmaker also urged Keshi to give serious attention to the defence and the goalkeeping sections in the Eagles. "Keshi, in my opinion, should not discard the domestic league players. Some are better than being mere training materials as they were considered to be in the past.

"Instead, he should use them as he had in some Nations Cup qualifiers and friendly international matches. Surely, having being with them for almost year, Keshi must have seen quality in them and should therefore encourage them to sustain and improve on their form by further exposing them in serious tournaments where they will meet stars from the continent.

"I think, at the least a ratio of 80 to 20 percent of the 23-member squad to the Nations Cup may be sufficient for now, while in subsequent tournaments, of course depending on their performance at the Nations Cup, the number should be increased," he said stressing that it brings out the best from the players with Nigeria reaping the benefit.

Alhaji Aminu assured Keshi of the overwhelming support of Nigerians especially if the right thing is done and advised the coach to quickly move the team to Faro, Portugal where they would have uninterrupted training session as well as opportunities for some friendly games before the tournament begins on January 19.

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