AFCON: ‘National Team Must Be More Competitive,’ Says Sports Minister

In Breaking News, National News, Sports

By Jonathan Ugbal

The Minister for Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh has emphasized the need to make the Nigerian National Senior Football Team, Super Eagles more competitive to ensure a balanced integration of both local and foreign based players.

The minister stated this during a live interview on TVC News sports desk on Friday afternoon monitored by this correspondent where he also attributed the success of the Super Eagles in the recently concluded African Cup of Nations, AFCON to several factors including timely support from the President who provided the resources needed to boost the morale of the team.

Nigeria lost in the final to the host nation, Ivory Coast whom they had defeated in the group stages. And, Enoh said he believes even if the country had emerged winners, there are underlying issues that need to be addressed.

“Out of 25 that went to camp and went to AFCON, nearly all of them were foreign based players. It doesn’t speak too well of our football. We need to get back to that point in the history of our sports and our football where foreign based players had to compete for shirts with the local based players. That means we need to also look inwards to our local football and how competitive it can get,” the minister said.

The Super Eagles are scheduled to play world champions, Argentina in a friendly next month amidst uncertainties about who will lead the team which the Minister stressed the need for diligence and stated that while he won’t interfere in the job of the Nigerian Football Federation, he will, however share his thoughts on teething matters.

“We have the challenge to qualify for the 2026 world cup, we have the challenge to qualify for the next AFCON. But we need to get back and work. We need to talk about who that coach is, for example, that is going to now take one of Nigeria’s toughest job – the coach of the National Team,” he said.

“When I sit and I watch nations. The last three editions of the African Cup of Nations have been won by indigenous coaches of their various countries. Does this tell us something? I understand that all the countries that have won the World Cup in the history of the World Cup have always been indigenous coaches. Does that tell us what the future of our football is? Its administration and all of that?” he queried.

Reflecting on the challenges he faced upon assumption of office, Senator Enoh disclosed that he has tried to keep things simple, remain committed with passion, and ensure the ministry is accessible to all. Also, he commended Nigerians for standing behind the sporting teams while expressing optimism about the future despite challenges faced by the sector.

“The same Nigerians that gave no chance to this team also rose up when they saw the early indications that the team was doing well. The whole country got involved in AFCON,” he said.

“Outside 2013 that we won gold, the last time we won silver was the year 2000 and I am glad that you can be head of a ministry such as I am and then do all the things that you need to do, make all the sacrifices and don’t get results. I am glad that in my own case, very reasonably, we got results and the entire country was in a joyous mood and I am glad to be part of this history,” he added.

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