Calling young players next Okocha put them under pressureDecember 30, 2020
The former Nigeria international has called on fans and media to allow rising stars to make their own names rather than comparing them with legends
Mutiu Adepoju has expressed his displeasure with the manner young players are put under pressure by calling them the next Lionel Messi or Jay-Jay Okocha.
The likes of Rabiu Ibrahim, Kelechi Nwakali, Joel Obi and Alex Iwobi have been praised as players who could follow in the footpath of Okocha.
Napoli centre-forward has also recently been hailed as a successor to former Nigeria international and highest goalscorer Rashidi Yekini.Editors’ Picks
Adepoju believes such praises derail the development of young players as they end up not reaching their potential.
“I believe calling young players in the youth teams as next Messi or Jay-Jay Okocha is unfair and unnecessary,” Adepoju told BBC Sport Africa .
“Indulging in this comparison is setting them up for failure because the weight of expectations will definitely affect these players mentally.
“It’s the main reason some players refused to work hard and be themselves because they easily get carried away by what the press was writing about them.
“We’ve seen in the past decade that we have talented players all over the field who can make our team tick again
“Nigeria continue to dominate the youth events and there are positive signs of better days to come. We just need to nurture these players properly and do away with the hype and noise.
“But if these players are allowed to play their own game and shine, they can be a success both at the club and national team level.
“Victor Agali was widely regarded as the next Rashidi Yekini, but he fought extra hard to establish himself and sometimes people expected too much from him.
“He is an example of someone who saw the burden of that label yet worked hard to establish his own name.”
Okocha has made a similar opinion in the past when he revealed the Super Eagles need a creative midfielder but the pressure the current players are battling with by comparing them to the 1994 squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations, was limiting them to reach their potentials.
“What the Eagles need now are natural midfielders who can create chances and change the course of a game,” Okocha told Brila FM.
“We need midfielders who can run at defenders and a pick their teammates with good passes,” Okocha said during a radio programme.
“We have good midfielders but not in at that level at the moment. Some of them are just scared and the fact that they are being compared to the 1994 Eagles brings a bit of pressure on them.”