Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has dismissed criticism he prefers players born abroad to local stars, saying he is determined to choose the best for the country.
“We don’t take into account where a player was born before he is invited. We only look at the quality of the player,” said the German-born Super Eagles coach.
“It doesn’t matter where they were born, it only matters how well they can play.
“I don’t know the player who is born in Europe and who is born in Nigeria,” he said.
“All the players are proud to be with the team. These players say I want to play for my fatherland.”
Rohr gave the example of Hoffenheim defender Kevin Akpoguma, who is set to make his Nigeria debut against Algeria on Friday after he was cleared by FIFA to change his international allegiance.
Akpoguma captained the Germany side that eliminated Nigeria at the 2015 under-20 World Cup in New Zealand, but he has since opted to play for the west Africans after Rohr scouted him for the past two years.
“Akpoguma was born close to Mannheim in Germany, his father is from Benin City (in Nigeria),” Rohr said.
“He said he will be proud to play for Nigeria, but he has already played for Germany.
“He told me it will be interesting if Nigeria played against Germany at the World Cup,” he said.
“He is 100 percent Nigerian, but his heart is also a little bit where he was born.
“You cannot say that because he was born abroad that he is not a Nigerian,” he added.
Rohr said the important thing is for the players to be willing “to play for us.”
During Rohr’s four years in charge of three-time African champions Nigeria, he has capped a growing list of players who were born abroad.
They include Glasgow Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo and Semi Ajayi of West Bromwich Albion, who were born in England; Tyronne Ebuehi of FC Twente, who was born in the Netherlands, and Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, who was born in Germany.