"Nigeria may have lost two points, but it gained a son", was the summation of Goal.com's Solace Chukwu about Carl Ikeme after the latter's heroics against the Taifa Stars of Tanzania during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier played at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium, Dar-es-Salaam.
The country has " gained a son" that some have tagged a capable replacement for Vincent Enyeama between the sticks. Many would be surprised to see the Wolverhampton shot stopper manning the goal post for the 2013 AFCON champions and probably ask: "who be this oyibo?"
When Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), President, Amaju Pinnick, assumed office, he had made it a priority to go all out and convince many players of Nigerian descent abroad to don the green and white of the Super Eagles.
Carl may have been one of the "first fruits" of the NFF's resolve to call in foreign trained Nigerian players to help beef up the senior national team.
Of recent, the likes of Shola Ameobi, Victor Moses, Troost Ekong to name a few, have been persuaded to switch nationality to play for Nigeria after representing other countries at cadet/junior level. One cannot easily forget the ongoing efforts to also convince Liverpool sensation, Jordan Ibe to drop anchor for Nigeria.
While the move by the nation's football governing body seems to be yielding dividends, especially with Victor Moses' pivotal role in the 2013 AFCON conquest, and of course Carl Ikeme's eye-catching performance, it may appear logical to say that we have found a permanent solution that will peg Nigeria back on the rope of great footballing countries of the world.
However, this stance by the NFF, portends a lack of faith in the local league. Relying on players of Nigerian descent abroad to switch nationality to play for Nigeria is telling us that the local league does not have quality players to do the work.
Yes, the country needs the best hands to fly their colours on the pitch but at best, this move is transient, albeit a shortcut to returning Nigerian football to its glory days.
The Amaju Pinnick led body should work on the Nigerian league and augment players from it with foreign-born talents. Let them (NFF), improve the league, and stop waiting for other countries to do the dirty work while we (Nigeria), reap the harvest.
Besides, many of these foreign-bred footballers may find it hard adapting to a new environment since all or a better part of their lives has been spent abroad. And for the coaches, working with them might not be as easy as with those who are domiciled in Nigeria, this is aside the financial and bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with nationality switch.
Although, as former Nigerian international, Victor Ikpeba said, " We need to...bring in these young players to help out..." and having "gained a son" in the mode of Carl Ikeme and a host of other players littered abroad (like Spain youth international and Real Madrid B team defender, Derik Osede Prieto) who "crave for something special with Nigeria...", it is advisable not to rely heavily on them or make them the bedrock of the national teams; more attention should be given to the local league, thus unearthing raw talents for the country