By Eddie Akalonu
Ex-Sharks, Enyimba and Dolphins hit-man, Victor Ezeji has said that home-based players can upstage many of their foreign compatriots in the Super Eagles saying “they possess the character, ability and skill to do it.”
According to Ezeji, “They (home-based) have all it takes to dominate the team but for this to happen a level playing ground must be set for players to prove their worth. I mean if the right incentives and encouragement are there for them free of the dichotomy that currently exist in the system.”
He added that “while some of the foreign-based players are perpetual bench warmers at their clubs in Europe and other places, home-based players are active all year round for their clubs in the league and FA Cup and by extension have the capacity to take over the national team if they are given equal chance and treatment by the FA.
You know I’m very conversant with the system because in my days, I passed through several clubs and the experience was totally demoralising. I was affected by the system’s discrimination. If home-based players are treated equally as the the foreign-based with regards to match bonuses for games and a level playing ground provided for all to compete unimpeded for national team shirt, I am very sure home-based players can equal or even better the foreign-based players.
We can’t camp some people in some secondary schools hostel or a third rate hotel while the others enjoy the luxury of big-time hotels and we expect same level of commitment. The treatment alone already tells they are not wanted or have no chance of taking a place in the team ,” he stated.
Ezeji, who emerged FA Cup Most Valuable Player in 2006 and 2007 when Dolphins won the trophy back to back and also boasts of the CAF Champions League success with Enyimba in 2003 and 2004, added, “I remember the friendly game the Eagles played against Liberia recently, information I have was that the players were paid a mere $1,500 for the game. I’m sure if it were the foreign-based were involved, they would have gotten something in the region of $5,000. So let the FA eliminate wide disparity, dichotomy and discrimination because it will never bring out the best in players.”
Without making reference to himself, the former national U-23 player pointed out that many home-based players have achieved for club and country more than those being idolised by the system.
“We are all Nigerians. We all started playing at home before some went abroad and like I said, let there be equal opportunity for players to fight for shirt in the national team.
“I played for several of our top clubs here and I know the thought of players on the matter of the Eagles from past experience when some of them gave their best to pick qualification tickets only to be cast aside at the time of big tournaments proper, Ezeji stressed.
Although he commended coach Stephen Keshi for his effort so far, he admonished him to be an agent of change in the discharge of his duty, saying “Keshi should continue to correct the imbalance by throwing open the Eagles camp for both home-based and foreign-based players to compete for places as a means to getting the best materials.”
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