Story By Akinola Emmanuel, March 24, 2021
Former Super Eagles striker and coach of Swedish side Vårgårda IK, Peter Ijeh has bemoaned the late invitation of Nigeria’s most in form striker in Europe, Paul Onuachu to the Super Eagles squad ahead of the March 27 and 30 AFCON qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho respectively.
The former Julius Berger forward and 2000 Nigeria Premier League top goal scorer frowned at the forced invitation of the country’s top scorer while featuring on BCOS TV flagships Sports programme, Saturday Breakfast Sports Show anchored by the multiple award winning Sportscaster Boluwaji Ogunmola.
“The inclusion of Paul Onuachu in Super Eagles squad first as a standby and subsequent invitation as replacement for another player who opted out is so disheartening and demeaning to a player who should be the first on the list of invitees. I hope he performs satisfactorily because he has been psychologically demoralized with the way he was invited to Eagles camp. It seems the National Team Coaching Crew were pressured to bring Onuachu to the team rather than willingly invite the goal poacher based on his current from”, the ex International said.
“Perhaps Paul is being treated this way because he plays for a country where merit is second to god fatherism. If Onuachu is a European, I am sure he would be idolized as a super star by his compatriots. Look at the case of 39 year old Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has just been recalled to Sweden’s national team after 5 years of retirement”, Ijeh opined.
“Zlatan was invited to Sweden’s national team camp on merits even though he is 39 because he’s the leading scorer with 14 goals. That would be history for the country and will also encourage performance at any age. Every country want to make history. So Nigeria should make history with Paul too as the only African to score 27 goals in European league”, he added.
On the probably of Onuachu fitting into Rohr’s style of play, Ijeh who currently handles a division 2 club in Sweden, advised the Super Eagles handlers to find a suitable playing style that will accommodate not only Onuachu but all of Nigeria’s football talents scattered round the world.
“As a coach, you don’t have a single playing style, when one technique is not working you try another. And in this case, when you have such a goal poacher in your team you should find a way to have him fit into your system”.
“Though I respect all coaches and their philosophies. But I believe that a national team cannot be run with same philosophy by which a club side is managed.
“The question now is not if Onuachu could perform but how to find the right technique which will make him perform excellently”, the Sweden based Coach stated.
“As it is today, Onuachu’s competence is not in doubt as he is presently the country’s number one finisher having scored 27 goals this season. So it is the job of the technical crew to find that missing link or devise a playing style that will bring out the best in him”, Ijeh advised
Peter Ijeh, who made five appearances for the Super Eagles during his playing days, said he would love to manage Nigeria’s senior national team if handed the opportunity in future, but stressed he is currently focusing on doing well with his Swedish club and possibly go on to manage a bigger team in the future.