ABROAD SERIES (Part 2)

By Conrad Osei Bonsu

Continuing my last article on how injecting new blood into the Nigerian nationals teams means introducing and giving opportunities to players that have experienced diversity, today we dive into how foreign talents makes any league develop in little to no time and what that means to the national team.

This approach is already in effect in most major leagues around the world, especially across Europe and most recently North America – where one of the subject of this series (Fanendo Adi) plies his trade. (First in the series – Injecting new blood into the Nigerian national team (Part 1).

Adi left the local Nigerian league in 2009, and after just 6 years of bouncing around Europe, he is one the star players in the MLS, a league that just recently gained reputation as a big league.

My question is why is that the case for them and not for the Nigerian league? Do we think if ADI didn’t leave the league he will be as improved as he is now?

Did the Nigerian Premier League not exist before the MLS? Do we not have enough imported talent to flood the league and make it an exciting league that doesn’t have players play the same exact way?

As a fan of the beautiful game, I know a leagues are ranked by its strength and ability to attract big players – big foreign players to be exact.

The NPFL has not attracted any major players in its entire existence in due part to the state of the country affairs and also the current state of facilities which are steadily improving but not at the world class level that leagues like the MLS and even the Australian A-League boost of.

The argument I make is that to attract foreign players to the local league is not just a privilege for the spectating fans but also a moral boost for the players.

When the Indian Super League was launched in 2013, the first major move they made was to bring in what they referred to as ‘marquee players’ and these players were simply old retired players with experiences like winning the World Cup to winning the UEFA champions league twice and more – Pires, Anelka, Vieri etc.

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Robert Pires playing in the Indian League

They brought nothing but experience since they had no updated skills due to their ages averaging 40 and most of them coming out of retirement.

Their experience rubbed off on younger players who learned and applied lessons they get on and off the field – India was and is still building an army of world class players in the comfort of their domestic league, and it’s working! India qualified for its first Asian Cup in 2011 with an 80% home based team thanks to this brilliant method.

The first is to improve club infrastructure and facilities as that is usually the big catch for established players.

They want good facilities to workout and train in and if that is provided then that is one hurdle crossed.

The next step would be provide a safe atmosphere for fans and players alike. Stadiums should be improved to world standards  (or atleast close to world standard) and a boost in security is to be encouraged by both federal government and local authorities on game days and in the league in general.

Another method would be to make lower leagues stronger, basically building from under 11 up to professional levels. This can easily be achieved through the convergence of the education system and the sport.

Primary and secondary schools football championships as well as University championships are to be seen as a grassroot level and should always be invested in, that way we attract foreign players for both the educational system and the opportunities it presents.

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The impact of this is that when there is a multitude of leagues or levels, players from neighbouring countries where football is not as developed will be drawn to it and in turn their presence will help local players adapt to foreign opponent and learn their difference approach to the game.

The impact of foreign players in the local league cannot be summed up in one opinion-based article but I’ll try to do so by ending with a few lines to conclude.

By adding foreign players with diverse backgrounds and experiences it makes the domestic league a more global league and that will help build younger players for when they choose to go to bigger leagues and most importantly get called on to represent their country at any age level.

The writer of this article Conrad Osei-Bonsu is a Communication and film Studies student at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He is an expert on MLS and African Football.

You can Follow him on Instagram/Twitter.

Watch out for his NEXT article on www.footballnaija.com.ng

Youth development through exposure (part 3)

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