We shouldn’t force Everton’s Lookman to play for Nigeria, says Chief Onigbinde

Former Nigeria coach Adegboye Onigbinde has said Everton youngster Ademola Lookman should not be forced to play for the country.

The 19-year-old, who was signed by Everton on a reported for £11m deal recently, got his first goal on his debut for the Toffees in their 4-0 victory over Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

NFF’s technical director, Bitrus Bewarang, was reported to have said the country would work on getting Lookman for the Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, if the German wants him in his team.

But Onigbinde, who spoke with our correspondent on the telephone on Friday, said the player should be allowed to decide if he wants to play for Nigeria.

“There is no gainsaying that the player is talented, which is why Nigeria can decide to go after him and try to woo him for the Eagles. There are other players of Nigerian descent out there who aren’t being brought back home,” he said.

“But I will call for caution in the approach to the issue as the boy should not be forced to play for the country. He should be allowed to make his choice just like the others before him did. The choice he makes will influence his commitment to whichever country he chooses to play for.”

He added, “But the best way to get players for the national team is to develop the game on the home front first. That will solve the problem of Nigeria’s overreliance on the overseas-based players. When we develop the game at home, the players out there will only be additions to the best players we have at home, who would have formed the nucleus of the national team.

“Every good footballing country today has its national teams built from the domestic league. We should not be an exception, because the Eagles have benefitted from the home-based players in the past and they ruled the continent with these quality players. The administrators should develop the game here before going for competitions – which is only to serve as a test for the developed players.”

The former Shooting Stars coach expressed fears over the country’s chances of qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Nigeria have failed to qualify for the competition for two consecutive editions – in 2015 and 2017.

Onigbinde said the Eagles are not being missed at Gabon 2017 AFCON.

“The teams playing at the AFCON are good enough to be there that is why the Eagles are not there – we are not as good as them. That is the meaning. Nigeria are not being missed at all, because the quality of football on display in the competition is the best,” he said.

“We should have learnt a lot of lessons from our absence at the last two editions of the competition. It should teach us not to underrate any opponents during the qualifiers for the 2019 edition.

“There are no more small teams on the continent and the mentality that we can overrun any team and qualify should have left a long time ago – that was the mentality that cost us the qualification for the 2006 World Cup, when we thought the other teams in our qualifying group were inferior to us.”

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