'Home based players are not ripe enough for the Super Eagles: Yobo' was the headline carried by The Vanguard newspaper during Nigeria's doomed campaign to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup Nations however it will appear that the now-Super Eagles Homebased Coach has had a change of heart.
Speaking to journalists recently, the former Everton defensive stalwart said: "I think the league (NPFL) is good enough, but do we have enough visibility?” End of quote.
As a huge fan of the Nigeria Professional Football League and as someone who speaks to those who assiduously cover the league, I lean towards the views espoused by Yobo above because - yes - talents are abound in the domestic scene.
However, it is not whether we have enough talents in the league, rather the questions that I believe need to be answered are:
Does the league in the current format and organisation bring out the best in homebased players?
Are these players good enough to displace the foreign based players in the full Super Eagles team?
After national team exposure, will these players stay in and enrich the local league?
For me, the answer to these trio questions is a resounding no.
"We have good players, we have very good players (in the NPFL). Do we have players that can come true and fit into the national team? Yes.” reiterated a passionate Yobo.
In an earlier quote (further above) Yobo had cited the lack of visibility as a major factor adversely affecting the perception of homebased players - after all, fans can't appreciate players they don't see play regularly on television; players that mainstream media publications scantily cover their matches.
However, even if NPFL matches are covered regularly on free-to-air and on mainstream media, it will still be a monumental task to expect local players to dislodge the sort of players that Gernot Rohr is currently assembling; players from the English, German, Spanish and Belgian leagues.
Still, all hope is not lost.
Coach Joseph Yobo himself is now in prime position to show fans what homebased players are truly made of. Football for Wafu 2021 is less than 10 months to come whilst qualification for Chan 2022 will also commence shortly after wafu.
So, if Gernot Rohr has been issued the target of winning the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, I see no reason why we shouldn't task the head coach of the Super Eagles homebased team - Joseph Yobo - with the target of qualifying for and winning both the Wafu and Chan tournaments.
Afterall if these players, in Yobo's views, are good enough to be in the full Super Eagles squad, winning both tournaments should be seen as a realistic target.
If he pulls the off, then Yobo would have done his quota of improving the credibility of homebased players. Perhaps then we can start talking about integrating more of them into the mainstream Super talented Super Eagles team.