Some ex-internationals have said retired players should be proud to play for Nigeria, rather than having the belief that the country owes them for wearing the green and white colours.
Former Green Eagles and Enugu Rangers star Charles Okonkwo stated on his Facebook page that only a few ex-national team players were worthy of playing for any generation of the Eagles, adding that others were only lucky to be called up to represent their country.
He wrote, “Some of the very best! Emmanuel Okala, Segun Odegbami, Etim Esin, Rashidi Yekini, Stephen Keshi, Nwankwo Kanu, Jay Jay Okocha etc. With the inclusion of five or six others, they are the very few that would have graced any Super Eagles line-up of any generation. Most of the rest were in the right place, right generation, luck and probably destined to play.
“I say this lest some keep thinking that they were Messi and Ronaldo put together, and Nigeria owes them. Nigeria owes you nothing. Be thankful that you were given the opportunity to represent your country, some were not so lucky!”
In reply to Okonkwo, Maroc ’88 and Algiers ’90 Africa Cup of Nations silver medalist, Ademola Adesina, wrote, “I’m very proud and my children and family are very, very proud of me for wearing the green white green playing for Nigeria. Some don’t want to move forward after football, (they) depend on Nigeria to cater for them; huh am very sorry for them.
“Charles, my knees are gone but I wait for nobody. Right now I’m in Belgium waiting for operation in three weeks’ time on my own expenses, if not? My advice for upcoming stars is that they should be educated because after their football careers, if they don’t make it to the highest level, I’m sorry my brother!”
Odegbami, a 1980 AFCON winner, however lamented the fate of retired and despised footballers, who watch in awe as the country’s resources are looted by people called to serve in other fields.
He wrote, “They do not put anything on our breakfast table. But think about this: there is another group of Nigerians. They are also called to serve the country for a few years. They earn stupendous wages and perks that boggle the mind. Several of them using their positions are active participants in the looting and depletion of our commonwealth, as well as erosion of our humanity and values. They are demanding that the country puts them on a lifetime pension! The country has not erupted in protests. “What have retired sports heroes ever demanded from Nigeria but some respect and a little concern in life after retirement? There is something fundamentally flawed about the reasoning that diminishes simple moral sensibilities. The plight of sports heroes beyond their sports careers should interest everyone. That also is part of what advertises who we are as a people.”
Okonkwo, who is based in the United Kingdom, added that footballers should plan ahead of their retirement, rather than asking for “special privileges and rights.”
He added, “To play for one’s country, one needs to be rewarded for it, as long as there is a balance. At 22 years I was earning more than my dad who had been in the civil service for 30 years. But I and my generation worked very hard to get there, and it took years. What we didn’t do was to put money before, or demand money before success, so to speak. Some of us also began earlier on to start planning for life after football.
“I studied all through my Rangers career. And I am happy I did, for eventually I reaped the benefits. For those who were not so lucky, and have something to contribute, the government should assimilate them. My post was actually about those who have immensely benefited from the game, and at the same time want special privileges and rights.”