Austin Eguavoen defends 25-man selection for Nigeria vs Mexico friendly

Nigeria’s upcoming international friendly against Mexico will take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, July 3 and will be the third in the series. It is a Grade A friendly organised by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to keep the squad of the Super Eagles fit and work on their cohesiveness as a unit ahead of the postponed World Cup qualifiers in September.

However, newsmen has learnt that Technical Adviser and Coach of the Super Eagles team Gernot Rohr will not be in charge of the squad to face the Mexican national football team. Instead, it will be the NFF Technical Director, Austin Eguavoen, who will be ably assisted by Paul Aigbogun, in the managerial dugout for the fixture.

Instead, Rohr’s participation will be in an advisory and supervisory capacity because the friendly is aimed at fielding Nigeria’s home-based Eagles, which constitute the Super Eagles Team B, which Rohr is not in charge of.

Much of this information came to the fore after Eguavoen sent a 25-man list of home-based squad to the NFF and the football governing body released it on Saturday. The selection was met with criticism and accusations of favouritism as many followers of the domestic league argued that the list left out some of the best legs that could deliver a victory for Nigeria against Mexico.

Newsmen recall that Nigeria has played five games against the South American side without being able to get a win. Three of the five have ended in draws and Nigeria was on the losing side in two of their previous meetings. Even though it is an international friendly, it will do the head-to-head record and Nigeria’s international ranking a favour if the Eagles can get a victory in their July tie.

That is the basis for the widespread criticism the squad list took upon release. But Eguavoen has defended his selection, which he noted was well intentioned and backed by the quality of the local input of home-based coaches such as Ladan Bosso, Salisu Yusuf, Stanley Eguma and Abdul Makaiba.

To further clear the air on how the squad was assembled, the ex-Captain of the senior men’s national football team said he made himself present at the various stadia in the country to check out potential invitees, in the company of his assistant, before the list was compiled.

In his defense to the critics, Eguavoen noted: “I have been to few league games, the NPFL and of course the NNL, even the NLO and we penciled down a lot of players and I had to also rely on information from coaches that I know in the league.

“It wasn’t that easy because I have seen a lot of criticisms in the pages of newspapers and of course electronic media but it is okay.

“The only thing is that people have to do their research first before they speak, everybody is entitled to his or her opinion, it’s not a problem at all. Like I said before coach Paul saw some games in the league, I saw some games in the continent and the league as well and I relied also on a lot of my colleagues that are also in the league.

“I’m going to mention names. When you give me a player from Enyimba I ask Stanley Eguma, I ask Bosso, I ask Salisu, I ask Makaiba so if three out of all these speak well of the player it is okay.

“When you give me a player from Plateau United, I deviate from Makaiba and ask other coaches and when positive things are said about this player I feel that’s the right way to go about it.

“Even as at yesterday I was still speaking with Salisu, this morning I spoke with Bosso and Makaiba, they can testify. Everybody can’t come here at the same time.”

The Mexico-match coach also noted that there will be opportunities in subsequent squads, where those left out of the July 3 fixture will be given an opportunity to prove themselves as well. He further explained that this was a limited case and it was not possible to include everyone qualified.

“My apologies there is one player that is not here. Olisema, he was my player in Gombe United , I know him very well in and out but in these positions we have a lot of players, but this is only game one, other games will come.

“I might not be the next coach but this is actually the Eagles because the other guys are busy now.

“CHAN competition will come and everybody will have equal opportunity but if we have left some players out this time they shouldn’t feel so bad and before people do or say something they should do their research.

“A lot of players are on the list, we submitted about 35 names but we have to cut it down because of the process of getting visas.

He finished by saying: “The American Embassy wanted some certain number of players to be submitted at a certain date so it was a bit difficult.”