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    Saturday, November 25, 2023

    Super Eagles Captain, Ahmed Musa: ’We Need Home-Based Players’

    Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa was in Lagos last week. He spoke extensively on the Super Eagles at the public launch of the Let’s Do It Again campaign, ahead of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast in two months’ time.

    The initiators of the campaign, Sports.com, did a good job with the presentation of a short documentary on the Super Eagles – past and present, amplifying the Nigerian spirit in both the players and the fans and the place of football in the hearts of Nigerians. The video calls for patriotism and a re-invention of the never-say-die Nigerian spirit.

    Musa was moved. As he stood to speak, everybody kept quiet. It was a day after the Super Eagles held Lesotho to a 1-1 draw and Musa who was not part of the team in Uyo, was apologetic for the poor performance of the team.

    “To me, it is a privilege whenever I wear that jersey, even for two minutes. My first match for the national team was in Calabar. I played for just five minutes and those five minutes have seen me in the national team till date. It has been largely due to the encouragement I have been getting from my coaches and predecessors who cleared the path we are charting today.”

    Musa called on fans and critics of the team to sheath their swords because of the make up of the current national team, which has most of the players living outside the country. Said he, “with this video I have just watched, most of the Super Eagles don’t stay in Nigeria. This(video) is what they need to know where we are coming from.”

    Continuing, Musa called for a bigger role for home-based players in the national team. “In 2013, before our semifinal match against Ivory Coast, our return tickets had since been secured because nobody believed we could go there and beat Ivory Coast that paraded the fearsome Didier Drogba, Yahaya and Kolo Toure, Solomon Kalou and a host of others.

    “They were called the ‘golden generation’ of Ivorian football. We had seven home-based players in the squad with five of them in the starting lineup. But because the chief coach, the late Stephen Keshi, Da Bull Amokachi and Sylvanus Okpala believed in us, we achieved the impossible.

    “So we need to go back to that starting point where we have our league. I started in the local league. If nobody believed in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We have a lot of players in the domestic league.

    “If the home-based players are being ignored for national duties, what are they playing for? We are not encouraging them. That is why everybody wants to go to Europe. They feel that Nigeria football is no longer interesting.

    “But for me, remember I returned to Kano Pillars. Even if they are paid N500,000 they will stay and play here, where they can always see their families and be happy.”

    Musa assured that with the amount of support from the minister of sports, the NFF and the teeming Nigerian football fans, the Super Eagles will surely lift the AFCON trophy, come January.

    He turned to the media to play soft with the Super Eagles: “We have very young boys in the team who don’t have the capacity to absorb the type of abuses and attacks from the media. After a match, when I open my social media handles, I find a lot of abuses directed at me like ‘Ahmed Musa f..k you. You should retire… this and that’.

    “There are many players who were forced into early retirement before their time due to media attacks. We still need somebody like Mikel Obi in the team. We still need Victor Moses. It’s not all about young players.

    “Many people are saying Musa is old. No. I started early. I was about 19 when I first played for the senior national team. To some people, it appears to them like I have been there forever. I love my country. Whenever we lose, I have a family back home. They would say, ah, that is his mother. Let’s insult her.

    “So I try to put in my best whenever I am playing because I would not want anybody to assault my family. Now with the players we have, nobody stays in Nigeria. They don’t know the amount of anger we meet on the streets whenever we lose.

    “I cried a lot when we failed to qualify for the Qatar World Cup. We lost a lot of money as individuals and as a country. That is why most of our players now are facing challenges, because when you don’t go to the World Cup, no matter what you play, your value goes down.”

    On the comic side, Musa said most fans are not even interested in the Super Eagles anymore but only because of what they stake as bets.

    “You find a fan sending this type of message to your DM, “you don cut my ticket. You no sabi play. You must pay my money’. People loved the team because of the passion they had for their country. Now, betting has spoiled everything.

    “Please, please the media take it easy with our young players. They can’t take much pressure. Whenever they go in to play, they think of what they will find on their X handle or Instagram. What made Odion Ighalo retire from the national team? It’s because they threatened to kill his family. Why kill my family because I want to play for my country?”

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