Adeleye Olamilekan selection does Rohr no favours
Gernot Rohr's selection of Adeleye Olamilekan may have been a response to critics of his policy of shutting the door on local-based players, but it is one which could well lead to more problems than it solves.
Few Nigeria coaches have been given the sort of pass on their squad lists -- match-in, match-out -- that Rohr has enjoyed. A major part of that may be down to the dearth of real quality talent at top clubs in Europe, but it may also have something to do with the coach's relationship with the media.
There is one area though, where he has been ceaselessly hammered -- continually thumbing his nose at domestic league players, something he has unapologetically owned up to, claiming the players do not play enough, and pointing to a lack of organisational structure and academies required to provide basic football education.
Goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa has been the one constant local league feature of Rohr's squad, but even he was passed over when the chips were down -- first for South Africa-based Daniel Akpeyi, and when that pick ran into troubled waters, the German opted to go with the rookie Francis Uzoho, grooming him almost from scratch and making him the number one.
For his recent squad announcement, however, Rohr bent to the wishes of Nigerians, picking four additional local players to join Ezenwa. But bend was all he did, not break, as three of the four were named as standbys. Only Olamilekan made it to the main squad.
In doing so, Rohr undermined his own argument and exposed himself up to more censure.
There is little doubt that Olamilekan is one of the NPFL's finer defenders, and there is also no question that with Tyronne Ebuehi and Shehu Abdullahi out injured, right-back is something of a concern for the Super Eagles. Olamilekan also excelled at the WAFU Cup tournament, where he was first spotted by the Nigeria manager.
If he had been picked straight after that, there may have been no issues. But Olamilekan, who turns out for FC Ifeanyi Ubah, has only played one competitive game (against Nyangsagwang FC on 9 September) since the NPFL went on break nearly five months ago.
The decision to pick him now begs the question of how he makes the main squad, when the other domestic players could only make the standby list.
Enyimba's Ifeanyi Anaemena, who consistently excelled at centre-back for the People's Elephants and can also slot in at right-back, or provide central cover if either Kenneth Omeruo or Leon Balogun is deployed at right-back, would have looked a more obvious option.
In any case, it is a perplexing head scratcher that Rohr defends his shutout of league players because they do not play enough, and then picks one who has barely played in nearly five months over those who have been playing up until a week ago.