Sylvan us Okpala has said no coach will allow players like Chinedu Obasi, Ikechukwu Uche and Taiye Taiwo in a team given their unprofessional conduct at the time late Stephen Keshi was coach of the Super Eagles.
Okpala, who was part of Keshi’s technical team, spoke in defence of Keshi, who some ex-national team players have accused of asking for bribe.
According to him, Keshi, who won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, had good reasons not to pick Chinedu Obasi, Ike Uche, Brown Ideye and Taiye Taiwo as part of the 2014 Brazil World Cup-bound team.
Meanwhile, Chinedu Obasi had said Keshi and his coaching crew asked him for money before he can be part of the team, adding that it was why other players did not make it to Brazil.
However, Sylvanus Okpala, who said the players were not good enough to be in the team at the time they were not included, said Obasi wasn’t even part of their plans; not even for the Nations Cup.
In an interview with Vanguard, Okpala wondered “what stopped Obasi from saying this since 2014? Was he dreaming of coming back to the national team? You have to check your age; then you can damn the consequences and come out to say the truth. He should have said it when Keshi was alive.
“I’m not trying to defend anyone or say that it’s not happening. But I didn’t experience this in the squad that went to the Nations Cup and while I was there, there was no such thing.
“Everything we did was based on merit. If you’re good, you’re good. But if you weren’t good, sorry, we picked players based on merit.
“Obasi said he played in Europe and in the Champions League when he was dropped. What does that mean? That you’re playing in the Champions League doesn’t mean that a player who is not playing in the Champions League cannot be better than you.
“Football performance is not measured that way. The only difference is that your team is playing the Champions League and you’re fortunate to be in the team, but it doesn’t make you better than a player whose team is not playing in the Champions League.”
Also speaking on Brown Ideye, Okpala agreed that he was instrumental to the team winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 and made a lot of sacrifices.
He said: “Ideye was one player then that if you said you didn’t have a player on the left; Brown would go and perform creditably well. But that didn’t mean he had to relax because he won the Nations Cup. You must be in form for a coach to pick you.”
But while explaining the omission of Taiwo and Uche, Okpala said they were rebellious; characters no coach would allow in his team.
Sylvanus Okpala said: “I was not surprised that Ikechukwu Uche did not make it to the World Cup because I knew what we went through with him during the 2013 AFCON.
“In our first game, we were playing 1-1, but were reduced to 10 men and he was asked to come in. The coach told him what to do. When he got onto the pitch, he refused to do those things.
“We had to change another player to fortify our defence. When that player was going in, Stephen Keshi told him what to tell Uche, but he still refused to play to instruction. We were one man down and Uche was not falling back to defend.
“He was dropped from the team because he was disobedient. He kept on telling us that in his club, this was how they used to play. Then at a point in time, I called him and said there is a way we want you to play here. This is the Nigerian National team and not your club; so this is how we want you to play.
“Don’t come and tell us about your club. I told him that if he played for Villarreal and Liverpool bought him, will he go to Liverpool and start telling them that this is how they play in Villarreal?”
Okpala also revealed that Taiwo almost caused a mutiny in the build up to the Nations Cup.
His words: “I also read about Taiye Taiwo’s outburst in the papers. After our experience with him, we never invited him again.
“During our AFCON qualifier against Rwanda, Taiye didn’t play well in that game. Keshi complained after the game, but the players went back to their rooms and started plotting how to remove Keshi.
“They never knew that Keshi’s room was the next to Taiye’s room.
“Taiye was telling other players that Keshi was shouting at him and that he will do to Keshi what he did to other coaches and that they would ensure that Keshi was sacked.
“Keshi was in his room listening to their conversation. Now, most of them are now coming to talk about money. It wasn’t about money because I knew about these two issues involving Taiye and Uche.
“Which coach will like to invite a player who wants him sacked in his team? It’s not possible. I am telling you what happened as an insider,” Sylvanus Okpala added.