President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr. Amaju Pinnick has thrown his support on the inclusion of Kelechi Iheanacho in Super Eagles’ provisional squad for 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Iheanacho, who has not been at the top of his game at Leicester City, has been criticized by many of not deserving a call up for the continental competition, billed to hold in Egypt beginning this month.
Pinnick, in an interview over the weekend, denied claims that he forced the decision on Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, to include the forward in the squad, but admitted he only suggested it to the coach.
“We have a contract with the coach, such that after the selection of players is done, he sends [the list] to me, and I send it to the technical committee, without altering it, and then it is sent back to the coach, before he releases it to the public,” the NFF boss said.
“However, I advised the coach on Iheanacho, and I don’t have any regret about it.”
This is not the first time a player’s inclusion in the Nigerian squad has raised controversies among fans. Former Leicester City star, Ahmed Musa was in same position before the World Cup.
“It was the same thing I did during the time of Ahmed Musa, when he was facing problems in his marriage and in Leicester City,” Pinnick continued.
“I told the coach that if a football club does not help the player, it is the country that should help the player. Now look at what Musa did at the World Cup.
“It is the same thing with Iheanacho, there are some reasons he left Pep Guardiola and Manchester City which I don’t want to say, but I am happy that other players are also saying it.
“He went to Leicester City and is adjusting, and he is young and an enterprising left-footed player. If he does not go to the AFCON now, when will he go? He can even be the hero of the tournament at the end of the day.
“But I told the coach that he has the final decision to make. If I was the President of Nigeria, and I see an issue to advice the coach on, I would have done the same,” he added.
The Super Eagles camp is already open in Asaba, Delta state ahead of the Egypt tournament, and at the time of this report, 16 players – including Iheanacho – have reported to camp.
The AFCON kicks off on June 21, with the Eagles beginning their Group B campaign on June 22 against Burundi.