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“The level of the leagues are low” Ex-Cameroon star Onana talks on local players’ exclusion from the national team

The provisional squad lists for the Africa Cup of Nations were released last week, and some of the top countries had few players from their local leagues 

Former Cameroon defender Dennis Onana has supported the partial exclusion of local league players from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations because he believes the quality of football in some African leagues has dropped, Soccernet.ng reports.

The participating teams in the 2023 AFCON released their provisional squads last week. And in Nigeria, the big debate was that only three home-based players made the squad, and all three were goalkeepers.

Many fans opine that, considering the average form of the Super Eagles, coach Jose Peseiro could try out players from the local league. A strong basis for the argument is that coach Stephen Keshi won the AFCON in 2013 with some local-based players.

However, former Cameroon defender Onana has a different opinion. The 59-year-old, who played at the World Cup and the Nations Cup, believes the quality of players in the league has dropped, and the players who ply their trades in Europe are better.

“The level of the leagues in Africa, whether in Cameroon or Nigeria, are very low. In the old days, we were playing for home leagues, and those teams were very strong. We were strong teams, and we made the national team strong,” Onana told Brila FM.

“There were teams like Cannon Yaounde, Shooting Stars Of Ibadan, and Union Douala. We only needed two or three players from Europe to help us improve the national team.

“But now, the level of the leagues in Europe is so high that the players in the local leagues cannot compete. We hope the national leagues will improve, but Nigeria, Cameroon, and Morocco have so many strong players in Europe that they cannot come and be on the bench at the AFCON.”

In recent years, players from the Nigerian League have not impressed on the big stages. Nigeria has hardly made a mark in the African Nations Championship, which is exclusive to players in their local leagues.

Also, Nigerian clubs have not excelled in CAF’s club competitions. If the clubs improve and their performances in big competitions get better, more home-based players could find their way to the national team.